The Greek Debt Crisis: A Misnomer for the European Imperialist Crisis

Anti-austerity demonstration before the Greek Parliament, July 3, 2015

Anti-austerity demonstration before the Greek Parliament, July 3, 2015

August 2015
Hari Kumar

1. An Introduction to Greece
2. The Truman Doctrine – Greece becomes dependent upon the USA after the Second World War
3. The Greek Junta – Greece by now fully a client state of the USA
4. Capitalist Class of Greece Moves to “Democracy” and Europe
5. The USA Makes Its Move to Become the World Imperialist Leader – The Character of the European Union – from pro-USA states to anti-USA coalition
6. The Greek Economic Crisis 2009-2015
7. The Marxist View of “National Debt” under capitalism
8. The Debt Crisis leads to increasing struggle of the growing Greek working class and gives rise to The United Front of Syriza – the political parties of the left
9. What was the elected programme of Syriza?
10. Elections of 2015 and Negotiations with the Troika
11. Conclusion
APPENDIX: Select Chronology 1975 to 2015

After the Second World War, Greece was a client state in the Mediterranean of the USA. The revisionist collapse of the Yugoslav communists in the neighbouring state of Yugoslavia was key in this development. Tito’s degeneration into revisionism deprived the minority of the Marxist-Leninist forces in the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) of crucial support. We describe this in a subsequent more detailed article.

This article is restricted to the post Second World War development of Greece, up to the present-day debt crisis. It argues that the entire post-war history of Greece was effectively that of a neo-colonial state serving initially the interests of USA imperialism and British imperialism. The Greek people did not have a non-revisionist proletarian leadership that could develop an independent democratic path. The Junta and the imperialist machinations in Cyprus of the island further retarded the people of Greece. Both Greece and Cyprus – endured military oligarchic dictatorships sponsored by the USA.

The later history of Greece became inextricably entwined with the slow but sure evolution of the European imperialist bloc. This bloc took multiple only slowly coalesced, and eventually it later became the European Community. However during its coming into being, it took several class forms. The post-Marshall Plan in Europe had ushered in a dominant USA which fostered the first steps towards a federal Europe. In its hopes to control the European content as a market, the USA was at first successful. During this period the elements of a united Europe adopted a pro-USA comprador position.

This is also characterised the initial European Economic Union (EEC). But the Euronationlists finally, and haltingly, moved to release Europe to some extent, from the USA embrace. Following the fall of the former Comecon countries, Germany was able to move into a new market itself. This began a new phase. Now the rising German imperialists used their industrial superiority and new market share to re-vitalise their hegemonic ambitions.

Such events were milestones on the road to today’s debacle in Greece. They were the pre-history of the chronic indebtedness of the Greek state.

After the Junta “democratised” itself, Greece swopped the USA master for that of the EU. The EU progressed to be firmly dominated by the unified single unitary state of Germany, where German capitalists became the dominant faction. German capital exported both capital and industrial exports, including… to Greece. Over-riding the total market share of Greece accruing to Germany, are the huge debts of Italy and France to Germany – both at risk of potential default. This underlies the harshness of the German ruling class towards the Greek capitalist representatives in Greece today. Finally, current differences between the International Monetary Fund leader Christine Lagard (representing the USA interests) and the German leaders Angela Merkel and Schauble, show the continuing inter-imperial contradictions. This has engulfed Greece today.

1. An Introduction to Greece

Greece is set in the Eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea and surrounded by the Aegean Sea:

“Greece has more than 2,000 islands, of which about 170 are inhabited; some of the easternmost Aegean islands lie just a few miles off the Turkish coast. The country’s capital is Athens, which expanded rapidly in the second half of the 20th century. Attikí (ancient Greek: Attica), the area around the capital, is now home to about one-third of the country’s entire population.


In the modern era industrialisation has been slow, leaving Greece dependent upon agriculture, fishing and tourism. The only segment of industry that could be considered substantial is shipbuilding and related industries:

“The manufacturing sector in Greece is weak. …. In the 1960s and ’70s Greek shipowners took advantage of an investment regime that benefited from foreign capital by investing in such sectors as oil refining and shipbuilding. Shipping continues to be a key industrial sector—the merchant fleet being one of the largest in the world—(but) are extremely vulnerable to downturns in international economic activity, as they are principally engaged in carrying cargoes between developing countries.”


As far as agriculture is concerned, produce is hampered by small peasant holdings, resulting from an early restriction on large land holdings:

“large landowners appeared relatively late (with the annexation of Thessaly in 1881) and only lasted till the agrarian reforms of 1917, which abolished big landed property in Greece irreversibly.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. ‘Capitalism and Dictatorship in Post-war Greece”; New Left Review; I/96, March-April 1976).

In addition dry conditions and poor soil make agriculture at times tenuous.
In recent years the European Community has helped with various grant subsidies. Overfishing has hampered that other resource:

“Greece’s agricultural potential is hampered by poor soil, inadequate levels of “precipitation, a landholding system that has served to increase the number of unproductive smallholdings, and population migration from the countryside to cities and towns. Less than one-third of the land area is cultivable, with the remainder consisting of pasture, scrub, and forest. Only in the plains of Thessalía, Makedonía, and Thráki is cultivation possible on a reasonably large scale. There corn (maize), wheat, barley, sugar beets, peaches, tomatoes, cotton (of which Greece is the only EU producer), and tobacco are grown. Other crops grown in considerable quantities are olives (for olive oil), grapes, melons, potatoes, and oranges, all of which are exported to other EU countries. … Although inefficient, Greek agriculture has benefited substantially from EU subsidies… In general, however, the importance of the agricultural sector to the economy is diminishing…
Greece’s extensive coastline and numerous islands have always supported intensive fishing activity. However, overfishing and the failure to conserve fish stocks properly, a problem throughout the Mediterranean, have reduced the contribution of fishing to the economy.
Greece has few natural resources. Its only substantial mineral deposits are of nonferrous metals, notably bauxite.”

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The early development of modern-day Greek capitalism was that of a merchant capital that weaved itself into the matrix of the Ottoman Empire. Both these traders and arising shipping magnates, were based outside of Greece. Being non-resident they could not transfer easily all their capital resources for later industrialisation needed to keep pace with the rest of the European economies:

“The development of the Greek bourgeoisie must be traced back to the sixteenth century when Greece was under Ottoman rule…. Greek merchants… accumulated vast fortunes and control (over) Balkan trade and most of the Ottoman empire’s commercial transactions with the industrialising West. …..
With the decline of the Ottoman empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Greek bourgeoisie….contributed to the development of Balkan nationalism. It thus played a crucial role in the Greek war of independence against the Turks (1821). For while the Greek peasantry constituted the main revolutionary force in the war, the bourgeoisie and the intellectuals managed to direct this force towards nationalist goals. ….
The first Greek constitutions, for instance, were inspired by the French experience; and although Capo d’Istria and later King Otto tried to implement an absolutist model of government, their efforts were ultimately frustrated.
Of course, it is true that in the nineteenth century the autochthonous merchant class was rather weak. But its counterpart living abroad, the Greek diaspora merchants and ship-owners, with their formidable financial power, greatly influenced the shaping of most institutions in nineteenth-century Greece itself… .. these (Greek) merchant communities.. were flourishing both in colonial centres (Alexandria, Cairo, Khartoum, etc.), in the major capitals of ninteenth- century Europe and in Constantinople and Asia Minor.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. ‘Capitalism and Dictatorship in Post-war Greece”; New Left Review; I/96, March-April 1976).

This large overseas Greek bourgeoisie was already prone to comprador positions. Although it helped transfer some capital to Greece itself, this was largely in the mercantile and finance sectors:

“Although relatively small by international standards, the Greek diaspora bourgeoisie, by exploiting inter-imperialist rivalries and playing the role of intermediary between metropolitan and colonial centres, managed to master formidable financial resources, some of which were channelled into mainland Greece. However, given its cosmopolitan and mercantile character, as well as the weakness of the indigenous bourgeoisie, these resources contributed to the development of a top-heavy state and a parasitic tertiary sector, geared to support a mercantile and finance capital, rather than to the development of industry and agriculture.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. ‘Capitalism and Dictatorship in Post-war Greece”; New Left Review; I/96, March-April 1976).

By the end of the Second World War, the population of Greece can be characterised in the following break-down:

  • A very small working class, of whom the most militant were in the tobacco industry; also some in shipping (often overseas for long periods) and fishing;
  • A substantial number of small to medium petit-bourgeoisie in the urban areas (artisans, small businesses) and an even larger number of small peasants in the rural areas
  • A small but dominant comprador bourgeoisie with significant financial overseas capital – based in the shipping industry and in bank capital – with many connections to foreign traders
  • A much smaller but ambitious section of industrial capital anxious to develop their ‘home’ base of Greek production.

The first two sections of society in particular, had suffered enormous losses and hardships under the Italian-German fascist occupation; and then in the ravages of the Civil War. A good summary of the position of the Greek people following the Second World War can be taken from Enver Hoxha:

“When our people are rebuilding their country which was devastated during the war, when our country is working with all its might to strengthen the people’s democracy and advance on its peaceful and progressive course, Greek monarcho-fascism is employing a thousand and one of the basest methods to inflict harm on our people. You know what a terrible tragedy is occurring in Greece. The unfortunate but heroic Greek people are fighting against monarcho- fascists and the foreign intervention. The progressive and democratic world is profoundly indignant when it sees the great tragedy of that people who deserve to live free and sovereign, but who, unfortunately, are being mercilessly oppressed and killed by collaborators of Italo-German fascism who are now under the direct orders of Anglo-American reaction.”

(Hoxha, Enver; “We Sympathize With the Efforts of the Greek People for Freedom and Democracy.” Speech 3 October 1947; In: “Two Friendly Peoples
Excerpts from the political diary and other documents on Albanian—Greek relations
1941 — 1984”. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin Institute Toronto, 1985; pp. 47-48.

2. The Truman Doctrine – Greece becomes dependent upon the USA after the Second World War

The USA implemented an overall strategy known as ‘The Truman Doctrine’ – to counter the ideological threat of the USSR after the victories led by the Marxist-Leninists had inspired the world proletariat. In the Aegean the Truman Doctrine aimed to:

“Prevent Greece and Turkey from passing under Soviet Control.”

(Woodhouse C.M. “Modern Greece, A Short History”; London 3rd Edition
1984; p. 258).

Both the USA Marshall Plan and the creation of NATO, were tactical instruments of the Truman Doctrine. They were used in Greece to build and develop a modern capitalist state structure. But before they were deployed, first the potential proletarian victory of the Greek Civil War had to be stopped.

While the British General Scopus and his forces had defeated the combined forces of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and their military wing (ELAS), significant distrust remained in the population against British imperialism. So, after the battle of Athens (Dec 3rd 1949) was won by the British, a democratic façade was placed onto the imperialist proceedings. By this stage all leftist opposition had been essentially neutralized and no longer posed any threat to the Greek capitalist class.

When the British imperial chief Winston Churchill understood the degree of Greek popular distrust – he reversed his prior opposition to a plebiscite. The plebiscite following the defeat of left forces enabled the return. The ensuing Plebiscite supported the return of King George II to Greece. (Woodhouse C.M. “Modern Greece” Ibid; p. 254).

The Americans also dropped their previous support of the King, and become “ostentatiously neutral” (Woodhouse C.M Ibid; p. 254) – they tacitly supported the British crushing of the communist forces. Archibishop Damaskinos was appointed a Regent in the King’s stead and General Plasitiras (head of EDS) was appointed Prime Minister and head of government in lieu of George Papandreuou. Papandreuou had previously “approved” the British suppression of the mutiny of 1944 (Woodhouse C.M Ibid; p. 252).

Both the American covert support, and the British repudiation of the King’s intent – enabled the predominantly capitulationist ELAS some pretext to accede to British overlordship. Accordingly ELAS now agreed to the infamous Varizka Agreement of February 1945. Only Aris Veloukhiotis and the Political Committee of National Liberation (PEEA) had resisted Varizka – and these forces were simply hunted down and eliminated.

A succession of shaky governments was capped by the first post-war General Election of March 1946. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) abstained and the Populist party of Constantine Taldaris, formed a government. This election:

“Marked a watershed in Greece’s foreign relations. For the first time the Government of the USA was directly involved in Greek affairs alongside Britain, though occupation in the Allied Mission for observing the Greek elections. It was a first step towards the Truman Doctrine”. (Woodhouse C.M Ibid; p. 257).

The defeat of left and communist forces at Athens had decimated left resistance.
Behind both the King and the Parliament lay the Army, and the most right-wing section of the army – the group known as IDEA (Sacred Bond of Greek Officers):

“After 1949, the ruling class was no longer threatened. … their enemies had been effectively destroyed for a generation.…..
After its victory, the Right imposed a quasi-parliamentary régime on the country: a régime with ‘open’ franchise, but systematic class exclusions. The Communist Party was outlawed and an intricate set of legal and illegal mechanisms of repression institutionalized to exclude left-wing forces from political activity. The job of guaranteeing this régime fell to the agency which created it: the army. The state was nominally headed by the monarchy and political power was supposedly vested in parliament. In reality, however, the army, and more specifically a powerful group of anti-communist officers within it, played the key role in maintaining the whole structurally repressive apparatus… in particular IDEA (Sacred Bond of Greek Officers), which was to play a key role in post-war politics.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. ‘Capitalism and Dictatorship in Post-war Greece”; New Left Review; I/96, March-April 1976).

The Tsildardis government gave way to the more right wing Demetrios Maiximos with General Zervas (Formerly of EEDS) as Minister of Public Order. Brutal repressions of left forces continued despite both international protests and the presence of a United Nations observership. We will examine the Civil war and the Varzika Agreement in detail in a subsequent article.

By October 1948, martial law was imposed. Under this direct attack by the right-wing forces, and the simultaneous Yugoslav revisionist turn and exposure by the Marxist-Leninist Cominform of 1948:

“The rebel leaders admitted defeat by proclaiming a ‘temporary cessation of hostilities’… a caretaker government.. lifting of martial law, .. withdrawal of the British service missions and the renewal of friendly relations with Yugoslavia.”

(Woodhouse C.M Ibid p. 260)

The Greek government joined NATO in 1951, as well as the Council of Europe; and the Security Council of the UN.

Although throughout this period numerous governments based on varying participation of right-wing forces were only able to hold power for brief periods. The National Progressive Union of the Center (EPEK) – led by General Plastiras and Emmanuel Tsouderous held power until displaced by the virulently anti-communist General Papagos leading the Greek Rally:

“The days of Plastiras’ government were clearly numbered when not only the Greek public but also the US authorities became impatient … Under pressure from the US Embassy the government resigned in 1952… (leading) to electoral overwhelming victory for the Greek Rally.”

(Woodhouse C.M Ibid pp.261-263).

Army vicious actions purged all state structures – which was key to the state through the immediate post-War period:

“Military reaction established firm control over the whole of Greek territory and consolidated a system of ‘repressive parliamentarism’ or ‘guided democracy’. This was controlled by a triarchy of throne, army and bourgeois parliament. Within this power bloc it was the army, the victor of the civil war, which played the dominant role.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976)

Industrial Policy of the Greek Capitalists in this Period

For the next 11 years, both the Army (Marshall Papagos) representatives, or parliamentary figures (George Papandreou before the coup and later Constantine Karamanlis) wanted to consolidate the neo-colonial status to the USA. This started with an economy based on agriculture, tourism and a small manufacturing base.

“the country was far from self-sufficient. .. the chief market for tobacco was revived (West Germany).. expenditure of tourists which came to take second place only to agricultural products as a source of foreign exchange. The development of manufacturing industry and mining with indigenous capital, in place of foreign concessions, (was) a healthy trend. But the lack of home produced source of energy was a severe handicap. It remained true that Greece was still dependent upon foreign aid and there was no end to this condition in sight.”

(Woodhouse C.M Ibid p. 267)

Five special features of the Greek state’s path to modernisation, can be seen:

1. The political and organisational strength of the working class and peasantry was weak, having been decimated during the second world war and after by the brutality of the state. The KKE was almost devoid of leadership, with key leaders in exile.
2. The small native capitalist class was out-numbered by the many Greek capitalist who were based overseas (shipping) – and did not have the necessary local capital to invest. Hence the small resident Greek capitalists used the State machinery to develop. This state machinery swelled the size of the bureaucracy who became a large state dependent stratum. They aspired to ‘middle-class’ status but were objectively privileged sections of a growing working class.
3. The state still needed the heavy investment of the overseas imperialists. They first aligned themselves to the USA, and then by the 1970s to Europe.
4. These strategies effectively left Greece a dependent state with the beginnings of large overseas debt.
5. An immiseration – poverty and desperation – of the working peoples, led to increasing emigrations to both the USA, Canada and Europe

After the devastation of the Second World War there had been an impressive return to Greek per-war levels of production:

“The Second World War and the civil war had devastating effects on the Greek economy. For instance, at the end of the Second World War, 9,000 villages and 23 per cent of all buildings had been destroyed. It was partially a sign of the vitality of Greek capitalism that by the middle fifties, pre-war levels of output had been reached again and the economy was growing at a fast rate (the average rate of growth in the fifties was 6 per cent).”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. ‘Capitalism and Dictatorship in Post-war Greece”; New Left Review; I/96, March-April 1976).

However, despite this growth, manufacturing industry remained undeveloped. Nor did the rise of the shipping industry enable Greek capitalists to retain revenues within Greece to more easily enable a home manufacturing base to be built up:

“the Greek economy of the fifties did not manage to overcome a major feature of its underdevelopment: its weak manufacturing sector. Greek capital, whether in its mercantile, industrial or finance form, was unable to orient itself towards the manufacturing sector—especially in those key branches (chemicals, metallurgy) which, through their multiplying effects and their great transformative powers, can contribute most to a rapid growth of the industrial sector”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

“shipping… assumed colossal proportions in the post-war period. …..Greek seamen helped the economy by reducing unemployment and by providing valuable foreign currency through their remittances home. On the other hand, since shipping capital lies outside the effective control of the Greek state (it can always move elsewhere if the state bothers it with heavy taxes or other restrictions), it becomes increasingly an avenue of escape for Greek merchant capital. In this way, if migration robs Greece of its most valuable human resources, shipping plays a similar role with respect to the country’s financial resources..”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

“Greece’s age-old specialization within the inter- national economy had gradually given rise to a spectacular concentration of capital among a handful of shipping magnates, mainly based in London or New York, whose aggregate holdings are widely reckoned to exceed the GNP of Greece.”

(Petras, James. “The Contradictions of Greek Socialism“: New Left Review; I/163, May-June 1987)

In conclusion, Greece did not break out of the strait-jacket of a dependent economy. Despite large state structure support, Greek capitalists did not establish an effective manufacturing base:

“from a ‘under-developed’ economy: i.e. a fast-growing, highly parasitic tertiary sector, a weak and more or less stagnant manufacturing sector with a low labour absorption capacity, and a large but inefficient agricultural sector……Whereas in 1938 manufacturing output amounted to 85·6 per cent of all industrial output, it declined to 79·7 per cent in 1948–9 and to 73 per cent during the 1959–60 period.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

“Thus in the late fifties more than half the labour force was still employed in agriculture, whereas the contribution of the industrial sector to the GNP was only around 25 per cent.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

Correspondingly foreign investors ensured that favourable legislation was passed in 1953, and by the 1960s a large scale influx of foreign capital flowed in. This was concentrated in the heaviest key sectors, and by the mid 60’s the industrial development had qualitatively changed with heavy industry capital making goods predominating:

TABLE 1 Flow of Foreign Capital into Greece (Dollars)

1960 11,683,700
1961 13,509,809
1962 16,764,758
1963 50,026,290
1964 59,716,887
1965 111,596,368
1966 157,606,242
1967 32,265,000
1969 64,000,000
1970 70,000,000

By the end of 1973, foreign capital invested in Greece had risen to a total of approximately $725 million…. not very impressive if one takes into account that in a single year (1969) $2,504 million went to the gross formation of fixed capital in the Greek economy.

Nevertheless, as foreign capital was mainly directed to-wards the key manufacturing sectors, its impact on the economy was much greater than its relatively small size would suggest. In fact, especially during and after the years 1962–3, when the metallurgical, chemical and metal construction industries experienced a great boost due to foreign investments, one can speak of a qualitative break in the growth of Greek industry. Not only did the industrial sector start expanding at a much faster rate, but there was an important shift in investment from light consumer goods to capital goods and durables.

Whereas in the period 1948–50 light industry represented 77·5 per cent of total manufacturing output, its share went down to 60·9 per cent in 1963–70.31 This important shift is clearly reflected in the changing structure of the Greek export trade.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

Correspondingly, there was shift away from agriculture in the economy. And by the 1970s the economy had become qualitatively industrialised:

“In 1960 agricultural products constituted 80 per cent of the country’s exports, but this figure went down to 54 per cent in 1966 and to 42 per cent in 1971, as Greece was more able to export industrial goods. … Despite the dramatic decrease of the agricultural population during the fifties and sixties, the agrarian structure does not show any signs of basic change: there is no marked tendency towards land concentration or the emergence of large-scale capitalist enterprises in agriculture.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

There was a major qualitative change by the 60s, towards industrial development. But it did not eliminate ‘under-development’:

“Thus the sixties saw a qualitative advance in the industrialization of modern Greece. There can be little doubt that the ability of the Greek economy to reap the benefits from concentrated foreign investment in manufacturing was due to its own pre-existing capitalist development. This was not able to generate a significant industrial sector autonomously, but it could adapt itself to, and consolidate one with exceptional rapidity. Yet this type of capitalist development not only failed to eliminate some fundamental aspects of Greek under-development, but on the contrary accentuated them, creating disruptions and dislocations which are directly relevant to an understanding of developments in the political superstructure.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

There ensued an enormous state monopoly centralized economy in the industrial sector:

“The intrusion of foreign capital, in close collaboration with Greek capital and the Greek state, reinforced the already impressive degree of capital concentration in the economy. A first rough intimation of this is conveyed by the enormous size (in terms of assets) of such giants as ESSO-Pappas or Pechiney, or the fact that out of the 200 largest companies in terms of fixed capital, seventeen were fully foreign-owned and in another thirty-nine foreign capital had a degree of participation varying from 10 to 90 per cent. As the share of foreign capital in the GNP steadily increased (from 2·15 per cent in 1962 to 8·15 per cent in 1972), the monopolistic tendencies of the Greek economy were markedly accentuated. If in the fifties monopoly or oligopoly were due mainly to indiscriminate and nepotistic state protectionism, in the sixties they were due rather to the capital intensive nature of the new industries and the small size of the Greek market.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

But the working class was still small. This is reflected in the predominance of small artisanal or petit-bourgeois production:

“This impressive concentration of industrial capital did not eliminate the plethora of small industrial units, which for the most part have a family-oriented, artisanal character. Indeed, one of the most striking characteristics of Greek industry is the persistence, especially in the more traditional sectors of the economy (footwear, clothing, leather, wood products), of small, low-productivity units side by side with large firms that exercise a quasi-monopolistic control of the market. The extent to which small firms persisted in the Greek manufacturing sector can be seen by the fact that whereas in 1930 93·2 per cent of manufacturing establishments were employing fewer than five persons, by 1958 this percentage had only gone down to 84·9 per cent. In 1958 the percentage of firms employing more than twenty persons was 2·1 per cent.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

The working class and peasantry of Greece became progressively more squeezed:

“Gross per capita in- come, approximately $500 at the beginning of the sixties, had reached the $1,000 level by the end of the decade.38 But the few rough calculations which have been made in the absence of complete data leave us in no doubt as to the inequities which disfigure this spectacular gain. For instance, according to a relatively recent estimate, 40
per cent of the lowest income groups receive 9·5 per cent of the national income (after deduction of taxes and social security benefits), whereas the 17 per cent in the top income brackets receive 58 per cent. From 1954 to 1966, when the national income approximately doubled, profits tripled (banking profits between 1966 and 1971 quadrupled).
Obviously, as the relative share of big capital increases, the relative share of all other income decreases. Those engaged in agriculture are, as usual, the worst off. Thus in 1951 agricultural income amounted to 83·3 per cent of the average national income; the proportion dropped to 60·3 per cent in 1962 and 51·1 per cent in 1971… in 1950 independent cultivators and their working family-members constituted 92·39 per cent of the agricultural labour force.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

In summary, there was an unusual dual character to the industrial landscape in Greece. It was one of a state sponsored heavy industry tied into foreign capital, while the petit-bourgeois remained very active:

“the capitalist mode of production, dominant in the Greek social formation, is linked to the mode of simple commodity production (agriculture, artisanal industry) in such a way as to keep growing continuously at the expense of the latter—neither destroying it completely, nor helping it to develop. And it is precisely here that the most crucial difference lies between the western European and the Greek models of industrialization. The former involved either the destruction of simple commodity production in agriculture and industry, or its articulated incorporation into the capitalist mode of production through a specialization which established a positive complementarity with big industry. As a result, the effects of technical progress, which originated in the dynamic sectors, spread fairly quickly to the rest of the economy, with beneficial consequences for income distribution, the expansion of internal markets and so on. In the Greek social formation, by contrast, capital intensive industrial production has taken an ‘enclave’ form. Despite its rapid growth in the sixties, it has not succeeded in expanding or even transferring its dynamism and high productivity to the backward sectors of the economy. Thus simple commodity production looms large within the Greek economy. It gives a lot (directly and indirectly) to the capitalist mode of production, but takes very little in return—just enough to reproduce itself. As a consequence, inequalities in Greece are much greater than those found in the West. For in addition to the usual inequalities between labour and capital in the sectors where the capitalist mode is dominant, Greece has inequalities resulting from the persistence of vast productivity differentials between ‘modern’ and ‘backward’ sectors of the economy.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

As the Greek countryside was becoming depopulated, many peasants emigrated. This deprived the Right wing forces in the countryside of support. The on-going immiseration-depression of the living standards of the working people led to a resurgence of left support. After some electoral gains of the left, the RIght wing army faction decided to set aside the triarchy of Army, parliamentary forces and Monarchy – and to become the sole power base.

How Cyprus Became the Focus of Imperialism and Heated Up Greek Battles

During this time, the relations between the Greek and Turkish pro-USA client states became strained with the Cyprus crisis. The Cyprus struggle had initially started as a war of liberation against the Ottoman Empire and Turkish oppression. It now pitched a small weak Cypriot national bourgeoisie against both the pro-Greek compradors and the pro-Turk compradors.

“The movement for liberation began under Turkish rule among the Greek Cypriots, who suffered particular oppression, and its main demand was for “Hellenic unity”, for “enosis” (that is, union with Greece). The movement continued to develop under British rule, and with the development of a weak Cypriot national bourgeoisie this class came to lead the liberation struggle. The effective leader of the movement was the Ethnarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Mihail Mouskos — Archbishop Makarios — and embraced two organization
1) the National Organisation for Cypriot Struggle (EOKA), a right-wing body sponsored by the Greek government and led for many years by Greek General Georgios Grivas; and by

2) the Progressive Party of the Working People of Cyprus (AKEL) a body representing more directly the interests of the Cypriot national bourgeoisie, and presenting a left-wing image to appeal to the workers, peasants and urban petty bourgeoisie; it was led by Ezekias Papaioannou.”

(Marxist Leninist Organisation of Britain (MLOB) “THE CARVE-UP OF CYPRUS” “Class Against Class”; No.7, 1974. (

The fortunes of the Cyprus liberation movement were inextricably tied to the turn of events in Greece. Here the US imperialists held dominant sway:

“By 1966 Greece had become a semi-colony of US imperialism, and this position of dependence was reinforced by the military coup of 1967 which established a military dictatorship in Greece subservient to US imperialism. From now on the demand of the Cypriot national bourgeoisie (represented by the Makarios government) for national independence had the overwhelming 
support of the mass of the Greek Cypriots, while enosis became the demand only of the pro-imperialist Greek Cypriot comprador bourgeoisie.“

(MLOB, “The carve-up of Cyprus” Ibid)

What was the character of the ‘Independent’ state of Cyrus? In reality it was a neo-colony of Britain:

“In December 1959, prior to the granting of “independence”, elections were held for a Provisional President of Cyprus, Makarios stood on a platform of acceptance, with reservations, of the British imperialists’ plan and was elected by a large majority.
Despite the fact that Makarios represented the interests of the Cypriot national bourgeoisie, the British imperialists felt it safe to hand over “power” to a government headed by him by reason of the antagonisms artificially built up between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island, believing that these antagonisms and other “safeguards” could be effective in preventing the Makarios government from taking any steps to end the neo-colonial status of the island.
The “independent” Republic of Cyprus which came into being on August l6th, 1960 was, in reality a neo-colony of British imperialism.”

(MLOB “The carve-up of Cyprus” Ibid)

While Archbishop Makarios was a representative of the Cypriot national bourgeois, he was unwilling to launch a struggle that unleashed the power of the working class and peasantry. Thus he was left to resort to intrigue and maneuvers aimed at “seeking advantage of the contradictions between various powers” (MLOB). However this was ineffective as the USA blocked shipped arms from the USSR.

3. The Greek Junta – Greece by now fully a client state of the USA

As noted, the 1967 Greek military dictatorship was established by a coup backed by the USA. It was precipitated by the increasing working class struggles against the poor economic situation of the neo-colonial state of Greece, whereby:

“US civil aid came to an end in 1962; Greece was admitted as an Associate to the European Economic Community; and partial settlement was reached of Greece’s long-standing indebtedness to creditors in the USA and to private creditors in Britain. In each case the result was to add to the strain on the balance of payments..…. nearly one third of the budget was still devoted to defence… The stringency of the economic state of the country led to a number of ugly demonstrations. Strikes became increasingly frequent..”

Woodhouse C.M Ibid p. 282-283.

The then King, Constantine II was the Commander-in-chief of the army.
That the right wing forces were loosing support became clear from the 1958 electoral gains by left wing party EDA. The right wing section of the army – IDEA – launched the “Pericles” Plan:

“devised for the purpose of neutralizing the communists in case of war, this was used instead by the Right to achieve victory in the 1961 elections.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

This move by the extreme right-wing of the army, prompted George Papandreou
to start “Anendotos” — a “fight against the repressive policies of the Right.” His party was the “Center Union.”

“In the 1964 elections, Papandreou’s Centre Union successfully challenged the electoral dominance of reaction. In the elections of the following year, it further consolidated its position by gaining an unprecedented 53 per cent majority. Meanwhile, a strong left wing emerged within the Centre Union, under the leadership of Papandreou’s son Andreas.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

Although George Papandreou tried to move against IDEA. He also tried to improve some aspects of working peoples lives. Together this prompted the Army and the Monarchy to plot against Center Union by slandering his son Andreas, as a traitor who shared state secrets. An interim coalition government of centrists was formed but fell quickly. Panagiotis Kanellopoulos formed a ‘Service Government’, prior to an election. However, the Army remained determined to sweep away any opposition:

“In 1967, the Greek military seized power in a coup d’état, overthrew the centre right government of Panagiotis Kanellopoulos. It established the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 which became known as the Régime of the Colonels.”

The Colonels did not change the economic direction of Greece, they made it simpler – they suppressed both workers, peasants and small petit-bourgeoisie – in support of the capitalists:

“The colonels, by following the logic of the economic model they had inherited, gave their unlimited support to big capital, foreign and indigenous. They made sure through repression that the ensuing growing inequalities would be accepted unconditionally, without protests or strikes to frighten capital away. After a short period of hesitation… private investment rose again and foreign capital continued its penetration of the Greek economy. The rate of growth soon surpassed pre-dictatorial levels and sustained an impressive acceleration. This achievement was a clear indication of the ‘fit’ between rapid capital accumulation and the dictatorship. Moreover… despite growing inequalities, the standard of living grew steadily during the period of the dictatorship. The colonels brought to fruition a process of dependent industrialization that had started before them. They did not initiate it, they merely pursued it with vigour and consistency.”

(Mouzelis, Nicols. Ibid; New Left Review; 1976).

Although Mouzelis is sceptical that the USA supported the coup, it most likely they did. Much later on, USA President Clinton – admitted that the USA had backed the Junta:

“When US President Clinton visited Greece in 1999, he obliquely offered what sounded like an apology when talking about a “painful” aspect of their recent history.
“When the junta took over in 1967 here, the United States allowed its interests in prosecuting the Cold War to prevail over its interests — I should say, its obligation — to support democracy, which was, after all, the cause for which we fought the Cold War.” Clinton said in his conciliatory remark,
“It’s important that we acknowledge that.”

Remarks By President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Simitis of Greece to the Government of Greece, Business and Community leaders. Inter-Continental Hotel Athens, Greece – November 20, 1999.
Anti-Revisionism in Greece ‘The Rule of the Colonels’
– the military Junta 1967-1974

But there was never any serious threat to the Parliamentary section of the Triarchy. The working class had simply been resisting the economic pressures.

They had not been organised into a meaningful communist resistance.

The Junta soon became led by George Papadopoulos, who instituted a reign of terror against leftists and communists. The King tried in 1967 to establish himself as a sole dictator, but was rebuffed and fled to exile.

As Prime Minister, Papadopoulos continued a brutal dictatorship overseen by the dreaded Military Service Police (ESA) of Ioannides. The crude overthrow of any democratic norms even led the Council of Europe to demand Greece’s resignation. But:

“The Western Alliance as a whole continued to tolerate the dictatorship, on the grounds that Greece formed an essential part of NATO….. The US went still further.. American policy became one of active support. American and Soviet strategists were engaged in a duel in the eastern Mediterranean. It became even more intense after the ‘Six-Day War’ of June 1967 between Israel and the Arab states… In September 1972, an agreement was signed by which the US Sixth Fleet would enjoy home-port facilities at Piraeus.”

(Woodhouse C.M Ibid pp.298-99)

Repressions continued and provoked even a Mutiny in the Navy in 1973. In an infamous incident, the students at Athens Polytechnic were brutally assaulted in November 1973. Using tanks to suppress a sit-in, more than 20 students died. This allowed Brigadier Ioannidis to seize power for himself, behind a puppet General Grivkas (Woodhouse Ibid p. 305). Formal martial law was again installed.

Ioannidis now also moved to oust Archbishop Makarios from Cyprus in a coup d’etat. Moreover this was coordinated with the imperialists in order to ensure the partition of Cyprus into a ‘Greek” area and a “Turkish” area. Events unfolded as follows:

“The pretext for action was a note from Makarios to Greek President Phaedon Gizikis on July 2nd., demanding the recall of the Greek officers of the National Guard on the grounds that they had been collaborating with EOKA-B (the terrorist Organisation formed by Grivas following his return to Cyprus in 1979 and continuing in existence after Grivas’s death in January 1974) in attempts to assassinate him and overthrow the government. The note set the deadline of July 20th. for compliance with the demand.

So, on July 16th, on the orders of their Greek officers, units of the (Greek Cypriot)–National Guard, in full collaboration with EOKA-B and with the Greek troops stationed on the island, staged a military coup and established a military dictatorship over the part of the island outside the enclaves under the control of the Turkish Cypriot comprador bourgeoisie’s “Transitional Administration”. A new puppet “President” was installed, one Nicos Sampson, a curfew imposed and thousands of supporters of the Makarios government arrested.

The Greek government recognised its puppet regime almost immediately. while the Turkish government threatened that unless the situation in Cyprus were reversed it would order its troops to invade Cyprus under the Treaty of Guarantee.

For four days the US imperialists and their allies in London, not only took no action, they deliberately obstructed the calling of the Security Council of the United Nations which could have taken some action. As Lord Caradon put it bluntly in a letter to the press:

“Due to the deliberate delay of the United States and the United Kingdom, it was not until after the invasion (i.e. of Cyprus by Turkish troops — Ed.) that the Security Council passed any resolution at all.”

(Lord Caradon: Letter to “The Guardian” 11 July 31st, 1974; p. 12).

Meanwhile, Makarios had managed to escape from Cyprus. He was received by the British government with formal, but non-committal, protocol, but the United States government talked with him only in his ecclesiastical capacity”:

“The President (i.e., Makarios — Ed.) had been given the chilly US reception of — in Dr. Kissinger’s terms — ‘a loser’, without hope of a comeback”.
(“The Observer”, July 28th.9 1974; p. 9).

On July 20th., therefore, some thousands of Turkish troops invaded northern Cyprus according to plan, occupying the principal area inhabited by Turkish Cypriots from the port of Kyrenia to the outskirts of the capital, Nicosia.

Later the same day, the US and British imperialists brought the Security Council into action, and it passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire on Cyprus. And Greece and Turkey — despite being, according to the world press “on the verge of war” – dutifully obeyed.”

(MLOB; Ibid).

As Woodhouse rightly comments:

“The US was legitimately suspected of having backed Ioannidis”

(Woodhouse Ibid p.305)

4. Capitalist Class of Greece Moves to “democracy” and Europe

The work of the overt and now discredited dictatorship of the generals was done, they had suppressed any internal left opposition. The stage was set for the partition of Cyprus. Now under an international odium, the Colonels “took off their uniforms” – again under pressure again from the USA imperialists. As the MLOB put it:

“The Colonels Take Off Their Uniforms

On July 23rd 1967. The military junta that had exercised a military dictatorship suddenly stepped into the background over the people of Greece since 1967, and announced that they had invited civilian politician Konstantinos Karamanlis to form a civilian Cabinet.

Karamanlis is mainly remembered for his role as Prime Minister in arranging the murder (and its subsequent cover-up) of rival politician Gregori Lambrakis (portrayed in the film “Z“). While in exile in Paris, he was in June 1965 voted into Karamanlis’ party ‘New Democracy’. He was committed for trial by an investigating committee of the Greek Parliament for “bribery, dereliction of duty and maladministration”.

Due to an unfortunate error, the “democratic revolution” in Athens was announced by US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger the day before it actually happened. Even the capitalist press was compelled to treat the “revolution” with some cynicism:

“Dr. Kissinger and his emissary Mr. Joseph Sisco have played a key role in promoting governmental change in Gioecell.”

(“The Guardian”, July 24th., 1974; p. 2).

And in fact, little fundamental in Athens seemed to be changed. True, a considerable number of political prisoners were released (a necessary step in order to obtain enough politicians to form a government). But Brigadier-General Dimtrios Ioannides remained in office as head of the hated military police, martial law continued and in his Message to the Nation Karamanlis was careful not to mention the word “democratisation.”

(Marxist Leninist Organisation of Britain (MLOB) “THE CARVE-UP OF CYPRUS” “Class Against Class”; No.7, 1974. (

Nonetheless Karamanlis did restore the Constitution of 1952 (making it again a monarchy) and released all political prisoners and “legalised the CP for the first time since 1947”. (Woodhouse; Ibid; p. 305). In actual fact he had no real choice as the prior alliance that had formed the Triarchy (Army, right-wing parliamentarians, and Monarchy) had been totally discredited.

“When Constantinos Karamanlis, the grand old man of the Greek Right, stepped into the breech and formed the first post-junta government in 1974, it was immediately apparent that there could be no simple reversion to the old model of repressive parliamentarism… (But) his freshly formed New Democracy party retained and expanded the electoral support that had previously gone to the parties of the Right. But the political discrediting of both the army and the throne—which had, in any case, regarded with suspicion Karamanlis’s sixties project of modernizing the monarchy—left him with little choice but to seek the consolidation of right-wing hegemony through a populist inflection of internal and external policy… Within months of coming to power, the National Unity Government headed by Karamanlis had withdrawn from NATO’s military command structures, legalized the Communist Party for the first time since the civil war, organized relatively free general elections, and called a referendum that produced a 69 per cent majority in favour of the republic. Subsequent trials of junta leaders—in some cases leading to sentences of life imprisonment—underlined the subordination of the officer caste in ‘normal’ political activity…”

(Petras, James. “The Contradictions of Greek Socialism“: New Left Review; I/163, May-June 1987)

By November 1974, elections had elected Karamanlis’ ‘New Democracy’ party. A further plebiscite confirmed a popular rejection of the monarchy. Karamanlis tellingly revealed his government’s objective nature:

“Karamanlis once remarked that he was himself the Americans’ only friend in Greece, and he dared not admit it.”

(Woodhouse Ibid p. 308).

Where was the economic development of Greece by now?
The hopes of the Greek capitalists had in fact not been fulfilled:

“In Greece… the early seventies already witnessed a rise in the specific weight of food, clothing and construction industries, and in the latter half of the decade manufacturing as a whole was contributing less than fifteen per cent of the annual increase in GDP, while fully three-quarters of GNP growth came from the inflated services sector. Manufacturing exports, given the small size of the internal market, had originally been conceived as one of the principal keys to success, and at first a number of important openings were found in this area. However, the recessionary tides of the seventies, together with the intense competition of low-wage economies precisely in textiles and other such goods, led to a loss of Greece’s market share everywhere except in the Middle East. By 1980, when PASOK was preparing to take over the reins of government, it was possible to talk of an actual tendency of deindustrialization, as the import/export ratio of manufacturing goods had risen to 3.2:1 from 2.5:1 in 1974.”

(Petras, James. “The Contradictions of Greek Socialism“: New Left Review; I/163, May-June 1987)

While Karamanlis was not anti-American, he was moving Greece towards Europe. Relations with Europe, in order to join the European Economic Community (EEC), became the focus. Karamanlis had spent 15 years as an exile in France, and the French government had sent him back to Greece on a government plane.

On 1 January 1981, Greece joined the EEC becoming its tenth member.
But Karamanlis was struggling to withstand the growing resistance as inflation drove a left shift. The by now openly revisionist Communist party of Greece (KKE) had begun to capture a portion of the electorate:

“At the left end of the spectrum, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) rapidly consolidated a strong position in industry and a ten-per-cent bloc of the electorate”;

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)

A new façade to divert the masses was urgently needed. The prior ‘centrist’ party of George Papandreou had been the ‘Centre Union’. After the Junta dissolved itself, this won 20% in the first elections, and supported Karamanlis in government. Consequently it soon disintegrated. George’s son, Andreas Papandreou had been trained as an economist in the USA. He had been instrumental in the pre-Junta parliamentary government, in attempting to curb the most right-wing elements of the Army (IDEA). He had fled into exile after the coup, and from there organised a resistance grouping – Pan-Hellenic Liberation Movement (PAK).

After the Karamanlis return to parliamentary rule, Papandreou organised the
Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Within 7 years it had won the in the Greek elections of 1981. It was an explicitly social-democratic formation proposing:

“full-scale nationalization and ‘an end to the exploitation of man by man’. …. And an all-round modernization of Greece’s productive system that would bring to the fore hi-tech industries employing local and expatriate skilled labour and producing for internal consumption and export. In foreign policy, Papandreou retained his reputation as an intransigent opponent of NATO and of any Greek involvement in the EEC .. All these themes came together in skillful and insistent propaganda centred on the need for comprehensive change or allaghi.”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)

By October, Andreas Papandreou was elected into power for the PASOK party.
It is true that early progressive moves were made during its government including early secularisation and improvements in the role of women:

“The more general secularization of Greek society, and the introduction of divorce by consent, civil marriage and equal rights for children born out of wedlock.. the Greek parliament has abolished various repressive laws from the fifties as well as some of the extreme powers given to the police, and although the military has largely remained a world apart, subject to no fundamental restructuring or parliamentary scrutiny, it has been deprived of the means of direct intervention that used to be provided by its own radio station. .. the EAM/ELAS Resistance was officially rehabilitated.”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)

However PASOK retreated quickly upon attempts to tax urban real estate, and did not try seriously to ever move on this front again. Industry remained at a comparatively low level against other countries of Europe. PASOK did not base itself on the working class, and thus never proposed any resolve to deal with either the Greek capitalists, or the petit-bourgeois small business. Corruption was a real problem and Petras proposes the term ‘kleptocrats’ to describe a stratum of especially corrupt business:

“Most of the ‘industrialists’ continued to accumulate wealth by borrowing huge amounts of capital from the state banks, investing a fraction and diverting the rest to overseas bank accounts. The debt/ capital-investment ratio remained one of the highest in the world because industry was directed not by the usual kind of entrepreneur but by a highly distinctive stratum of kleptocrats. Agriculture too suffered from underinvestment, irrational and costly marketing systems, with a multiplicity of small farms divorced from organized credits or from productive systems capable of providing cheap inputs or processing outputs.”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)

The preponderance of petit-bourgeois ownership of small businesses had bred its brand of tax evasion and corruption:

“In Greece, …the pervasiveness of petty-bourgeois ideology and the ability of the non-productive classes to evade taxes and acquire multiple sources of income. Until Greek society recognizes the working class as its most valuable asset in the drive for industrialization, it will be doomed to stagnation and crisis.”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)

PASOK would not move against the capitalist class. Instead it resorted to short term loans to head off worker and petit bourgeois discontent. PASOK rule led to inflation and the start of the debt. At the same time debt increased. Meanwhile
The financial sectors were bolstered whilst manufacturing was neglected:

“PASOK’s early spending spree… increase(d) the consumption of nearly all sections of the population without creating any new industrial capacity to meet that demand. The government raised wage income, partially offsetting the inflationary erosion in Karamanlis’s final two years; private capital responded by slowing investment to the merest trickle. Exports stagnated, while imports mushroomed and invisible earnings (the mainstay of the external sector) began a sharp decline. To secure the populist compromise the regime had turned to foreign loans, fiscal deficits and EEC subsidies; ….

Public sector borrowing soared from 12–1 per cent of GDP in 1983 to 17–1 per cent in 1985, without having any effect on domestic output; and particularly in the run-up to the June 1985 elections it was increasingly used to finance current expenditures, which rose from 39 per cent of GDP in 1984 to 41 percent in 1985. As one study has noted:

‘The fastest-growing category was employment in services, almost exclusively led by continuing substantial increases at around 3 per cent per annum in employment in the public sector and in banks . . . In the three years to 1985 employment in manufacturing declined by around 2–1 per cent.’ Table Two (below) sets out the still sharper fall in output during
the first PASOK term.

Table 2: Greek Industry, 1981–1984: 1970 =100

                                         1981 1982 1983 1984
Consumer goods 195     191      188      192
Capital goods        180     163      167      172
Source: OECD Report on Greece, 1985/86.”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)

Agriculture also saw falling production:

“Agricultural growth for its first term was as follows:
_1.6, 1981; _2.4, 1982; _6.8, 1983; _6.4, 1984; _0.5, 1985.
The reason for these meagre results was that only a small part of the funds were actually used in agriculture. The remainder were employed to ‘finance consumption, to be redeposited with banks at much higher rates, and to be used for the acquisition of real estate in urban areas.’”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)

In fact, while the now infamous external Debt of Greece, became a ballooning problem under PASOK. Petras cites figures from the OECD:

“PASOK has also increased Greece’s role as a subordinate debtor nation beyond the worst period of the old Right… (See Table 3 Below.) The foreign debt stands at 45 per cent of GDP and payments account for close to a quarter of export earnings. Given the phasing- out of EEC balance of payments assistance, commercial borrowing will soon have to increase more than twofold, on terms dictated by the foreign banks: namely, the closure of unprofitable public enterprises; greater freedom for employers to hire and fire workers; tough anti- strike legislation, relaxation of price controls, an expansion of public– private ventures, and an open door to foreign investment.

Table 3:

Greece’s External Debt (in billions of $)
                       1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986
Total Debt         7.9      9.5      10.6   12.3    14.8    17.0”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)”

In fact – all this is very similar to today, and the same demands for ‘austerity’ were raised then by the European banks.

This social-democratic party, now more openly objectively played the role of a pro-European comprador:

“Papandreou .. freely engaged in anti-American rhetoric… contending that the American imperialism was the most serious threat to humanity, Papandreou unnecessarily antagonised Washington.”

(Kofas JV; “Under the Eagle’s Claw – Exceptionalism in Postwar US-Greek Relations”; Westport 2003; p.184)

Meanwhile Papandreou was moving Greece firmly into dependency to the EEC:

“Dependency results from the growing EEC domination of the Greek economy. While the EEC has increased the transfer of loans and grants to Greece, this has been more than offset by the takeover of internal markets and the displacement of Greek manufacturers and farmers. To quote again from the OECD report: ‘Whereas Greek manufacturing output has remained broadly stagnant in the three years to 1985, import volume of manufactures may have risen by roughly one fourth in the same period.”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)”

Neither PASOK nor the party New Democracy (Led by Kostas Karamanlis, the nephew of the former President) – differed substantially in their political orientation towards Europe. Both were realigning from the USA to Europe:

“Greece evolved from a client-patron relationship with the US to being an EU member, subordinating its national sovereignty to the community….
With increased competition of the regional economic blocs.. after the Cold War Greece drifted further from the US, because Europe was drifting as it strengthened and expanded its own sphere economically financially, politically, and militarily…”

(Kofas JV; “Under the Eagle’s Claw – Exceptionalism in Postwar US-Greek Relations”; Westport 2003; p.248)

Greece’s leaders also did not appreciate the USA more overtly favouring Turkey as its vassal state of choice in the Aegean and Mediterranean. But in fact, Papandreou was posturing – and perhaps to the populist base that PASOK had bult, that he was ant-USA. After all, Papanadreous signaled to the USA that were better terms given to Greece, that this re-orientation could be re-visited. Correspondingly during the 1984-1985 year, the total US military aid to Greece actually went up (Kofas, p.200 Ibid). Moreover he renewed Greece’s allegiance to NATO, and enabled the US fleet continued facilities.

This hesitation of Greece’s capitalist leader to completely cut the USA off as their pay-master, reflects that of the European powers themselves (see below). The determination of the EEC to sharply diverge, reject its subordinate status and openly challenge the USA, was still to come.

By 1985, PASOK reversed all its earlier progressive steps for workers wages and trade unions. It increased unemployment to doubled its rate (it was now above 10%). It enabled employers to revert to arbitrary practices of hiring and firing, and empowered them to break strikes.

Greece’s path was set by the refusal to tackle the core problem: Refusing an independent path and adopting a pro-European comprador path – just as before it had been a pro-USA comprador path. What did this mean? Essentially it mean chronic indebtedness with no possible release. Warnings that were later to be echoed in 2014 – began to sound:

“Interest payments on the external debt have been undergoing a geometric progression (up from $466 million in 1980 to $1.1 billion in 1984), while exports have fallen from $4.7 billion in 1981 to $4.4 billion in 1984. … Capital flight has increased significantly in the 1980s, as it has done in other indebted rentier states. ….. a positive $15 million balance of payments in 1980 became a negative $312 million in 1984. For these reasons—together with the overwhelming predominance of speculative over entrepreneurial capital—it is clear that the financing of further growth is virtually excluded. Far from inducing the inflow of new resources for development, Greece’s ‘opening to the outside’ or ‘liberalization of the economy’ will facilitate the outflow of resources, thereby deepening underdevelopment. Nor will the device of lowering wages make Greek capital competitive, so long as industrial capital acts principally as a financial intermediary and fails to innovate and invent.”

(Petras Ibid New Left Review 1987)

The details of individual governmental changes up to the 2010 financial crisis in Greece, are beyond the scope of this article. In fact, they do not substantially alter the analysis. The trajectory of Greece was now set. While the political leaders were acting in the interests of the dependent capitalists (in essence all of Greek capital) – the compact with foreign imperialism would ensure the Greece crisis became a financial chain-reaction.

We must briefly examine the politics of the European coalition at this point.

The Appendix carries a detailed chronology describing the history of Greece from 1981 up to 2010.

5. The USA Moves to Become the World Imperialist Leader – The Character of the European Union – from pro-USA states to anti-USA coalition

Moving to a meaningful trans-national coalition of European capitalist states – took several steps and forms. The coalition morphed from a post-war Europe wish to re-build, through to the European Economic Community (EEC) and then to the European Union (EU):

“The Community’s initial aim was to bring about economic integration, including a common market and customs union, among its six founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany. It gained a common set of institutions along with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) as one of the European Communities under the 1965 Merger Treaty (Treaty of Brussels). In 1993, a complete single market was achieved allowing for the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people within the EEC…

Upon the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, the EEC was renamed the European Community to reflect that it covered a wider range than economic policy. This was also when the three European Communities, including the EC, were collectively made to constitute the first of the three pillars of the European Union, which the treaty also founded. The EC existed in this form until it was abolished by the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon, which incorporated the EC’s institutions into the EU’s wider framework and provided that the EU would “replace and succeed the European Community.”


Through these steps, the class alliances of the countries of the European alliance changed in its essential character.

Immediately post-Second World War, the European countries, were formed into a pro-USA formation. However over time they became anxious to attain autonomy from the USA. This fight-back reached a climax after the USA launched its financial attack in launching the Dollar Hegemony in the Plaza Agreement of Richard Nixon in August 1971. This act finally precipitated the formation of the Eurozone. This section traces the course of the changing class character of Europe in the post-Second World War decades.

At the end of the Second World War, the USA planned to rebuild European capitalism through the USA Marshall Plan for its own ends. This was facilitated by the fact that the Second World War had physically devastated Europe, and that many countries were in debt to the USA. Britain, for example was now completely beholden to its major competitor – the USA:

“When sales of foreign investments and of gold and dollars are added in, the net change on capital account between the outbreak of war and the end of 1945 amounted to no less than Pounds Sterling 4,700 million. The United Kingdom ended the war with the largest debt in history.”

(A.Cairncross. Years of Recovery, British Economic Policy. 1945-51. London, 1985. p.7). 

American imperialists recognised that Europe needed to be re-built as a bulwark against further socialist upheavals. Especially as the USSR successful battles, had become an inspiration across the world. The USA imperialists – as personified by James Warburg (part owner of the House of Morgan, a controller of USA international finance and industrial and utility trusts) – remarked:

“Germany was the hub of the weak German economy ‘the largest single compact mass of skilled labour on the Continent’, it should be transformed from ‘the present poor-house and plague-center’.. ‘into a powerhouse for a rapid reconstruction of Europe, without letting the powerhouse acquire too broad a permanent franchise and – above all – without letting the powerhouse ever again become an arsenal’…. ‘The Westward thrusting of communism will not be stopped by an physical frontier. It can be only stopped only a planned, US-Aided reconstruction so liberal and even revolutionary as to meet the challenge on its own grounds, and to strike the meaning from the accusation of American “dollar diplomacy.”

(Van Der Pijl, K. ‘The making of an Atlantic ruling class”; pp. 42-43,146; London 2012).

As time would show, once Europe had been rebuilt as a bulwark, the USA could not restrain European capitalists wanting their own dominance.

In postwar Europe – the Marshall Plan was one of the three trade and economic tactical instruments by which the USA imperialists wished to take advantage of the post-Second World War crippling of the European powers. The other two were the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the creation of the General Agreement of Trades and Tariffs (GATT). The military instrument to back these up was of course the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Marshall Plan was conceived as an anti-communist and anti-nationalist weapon and a means to erode European independence:

“The establishment of American hegemony in the North Atlantic area was directed simultaneously against the spread of planned economy and social revolution beyond the Soviet-controlled area in Europe and against the national, self-contained reconstruction programs pursued by most West European states in the immediate post-war period. These programs in which local Communists parties participated, were judged unsuited for maintaining capitalist rule in the long run. ‘Europe would have been Communistic if it had not been for the Marshall Plan, Marshall Aid administrator Paul Hoffman claimed in February 1950.”

(Van Der Pijl, K. Ibid; p.148-9)

Van Pijil summarises that:

“Through the Marshall offensive, the Pax American was imposed on the economic ruins of the defunct Pax Britannica in Europe.”

(van Pijl Ibid p. 167) .

But the formation of the IMF was another key strand of the USA design.

“Bretton Woods.. Shorthand for the system, designed by the US and Britain, that governed international monetary and economic relations in the decades following the Second World War. … (It was) the launch of the post-war phase of super-dominance of the US and the dollar. .. All member countries pledged themselves to play by an internationally agreed set of rules…these rules were quite strict, and enforced by a new world economic policeman, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Countries had to declare a ‘par value’ – an exchange rate – of their currency in terms of the American dollar and/or gold, and change it only in consultation with the IMF. Various forms of currency manipulation were named … to prevent a return to the competitive devaluations and currency chaos of the 1930s. While countries could keep some controls on movements of capital, they basically undertook gradually to dismantle the wartime systems of exchange and trade controls and to move towards the free convertibility of their currencies… they also pledged themselves to adhere to the rules of the multilateral trades and payments scheme”;

(Dean, Marjorie & Pringle, Robert “The Central Banks”; London 1994 p.75).

In return for this agreement, the USA agreed to take over the position as “lender of last resort” – whereby it would honour those creditors who wished to remove gold in exchange for dollar. It would:

“Submit to discipline by its agreement to convert into gold any dollar balances presented to it by overseas central banks at the fixed price of $35 an ounce. The US was the only country to accept such a gold convertibility obligation and the only one in a position to do so, having ended the war owning about two-fifths of the world’s stock of monetary gold”;

Dean and Pringle; Ibid p. 76.

This in effect took over the dominant position of lender of last resort that the British government had previously held from 1924 to September 1931 (Dean and Pringle Ibid p. 63). The US was anxious to see this agreement effected as it would enable the USA to control international monetary policy:

“In these countries (Ed -ie. those agreeing to join the IMF) national central banks of countries other than the US had little influence on policy decisions. Domestic and economic policy came to be dominated by one objective – the maintenance of the fixed exchange rate against the dollar – and exchange rate policy, was of course entirely a matter for government…. For the most part, a government would respond to an impending payments deficit by tightening fiscal policy (Ed-i.e. dropping the printing of money) or putting up interest rates; and a country with a surplus would ease fiscal policy or lower interest rates. Of the major countries only France resorted regularly to devaluation as way of maintaining its export competitiveness and growth.”

(Dean and Pringle; Ibid p. 76).

This meant that the USA did not need to try to maintain its currency value. All countries had to acquire the dollar; there was no need for the dollar to be defended at any particular rate of exchange. By 1949 the US had acquired 72 % of the world’s gold. The Bretton Woods Proposal had been resisted by Lord Maynard Keynes of Britain, but to no avail. This Agreement eased the post war period for the USA, because all other Central Banks had to have a dollar reserve:

“Making the dollar a reserve currency meant that central bankers round the world had to have dollars. They had to buy dollars in the marketplace which pushed up the price of the dollar up, threatening the parity of the currency with the dollar. Thus they could only buy when the dollar was weak… This suited the US and the US Federal Reserve which could follow a very lax monetary policy to make sure that there were always dollars to go around. It worked wonders for post-war US domestic policy, helping promote the wartime dream of full employment.”

(Bose, Mihir “The Crash” London, 1988. p.135).

The USA was in an unusual position of dominance. It had funded the war for the Western capitalist allies, detonated the Atom bomb thereby showing its military dominance, and had a home base that was unaffected to a large extent by the war. It proceeded to further dictate terms, to ensure its vote in the IMF on decisions, was a veto:

“In order to finance European and other foreign purchases from America, that is to ensure adequate financial resources to sustain US exports, (“world trade”) the US Government had taken the lead in 1944 at Bretton Woods to establish the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Loans were provided by the U.S. Government and US credit markets via the World Bank to European governments, which used them mainly to pay for goods supplied by American exporters. The source of the original loan funds provided by the IMF came from foreign currency and gold subscriptions by the participating nations. America’s subscription amounted to almost $3 billion and entitled it to nearly 30% of the voting power. The member nations agreed that an 80% majority vote would be required for most rulings, thus conceding unique veto power to the US… Europe was fully aware that it was ceding to America the option of determining its own currency values and tariffs. The US was the only nation with sufficient foreign exchange to finance a program of overseas investments, long term financing and foreign aid…”

(Hudson, Michael. Global Fracture, the new international Economic Order. New York, 1977. p.11-12).

Such a ceding of power to the USA was self-evident as any debts to the USA were only made payable in dollars or gold. The Bretton Woods Agreement had after all made the dollar “as good as gold.” The USA actively hoarded gold. Until 1958 and the Korean war the gold stocks of the USA remained exceedingly high, in correspondence with the USA stipulations on repayment). The USA also ensured that the major European powers joined the Gold Pool. This served:

“To ensure that the gold parity of the dollar would be supported by the central banks, the European ones mainly, who would thus have to sell central bank’s stocks of gold as the occasion demanded. The price of gold was kept artificially low at a time when the price of goods was rising. The dollar thus stayed as good as gold and the US was freed from the threat of having to support the gold parity of the dollar by itself, or of seeing gold overtake the dollar as an international reserve instrument which remained a theoretical possibility in the framework of the Bretton Woods Agreement. The US spared no efforts in its campaign to impose and maintain the Gold Standard.”

(Fiit,Yann, Faire, Alexandre, and Vigier, Jean-Pierre; (“The World Economic Crisis, US imperialism at Bay”; London, 1980; p.76.;p.83).

Britain was being firmly eclipsed by the USA as the foremost imperialist. The pivotal point forcing even the most stubborn British imperialists to recognise this, came in the Suez disaster of 1956 (these events were described in “The Gulf war – the USA Imperialists Bid To Recapture World Supremacy” at

Meanwhile the other European capitalists searched for ways to move into more independence. This was a slow process. The USA continued to exert major obstruction to real independence for some time. Within each of the major European states, some elements were more inclined towards the USA (i.e. compradors – the so-called pro-‘Atlantic’ bourgeoisie), some were more interested in maintaining an independent sovereignty (the so-called ’Euro-nationalists’). These tensions played out over decades, spanning three “waves” of USA offensives:

“Three successive strategies of Atlantic unity .. corresponded to the different offensives periods of American capitalism. The first was Roosevelt’s concept of Atlantic universalism, which derived its specific Atlantic dimension from the American focus of World War Two and the key position of the British Empire in the world America wanted to expand into. The second version of Atlantic unity was the Atlantic Union idea, which surfaced at the time of the Marshall Plan and combined a status quo approach to control of the periphery with a high-pitched Cold War unity against the Soviet Union. The third Atlantic strategy was the Atlantic partnership scheme promulgated by President Kennedy in an attempt to restore unity of purpose to an Atlantic world in which the establishment of a restrictive EEC demonstrated the degree to which Western European capital had emancipated itself from American tutelage and was intent on carving out a sphere-of-interest of its own.”

(Van Der Pijl, K; Ibid; p.xxxiv; London 2012).

The so-called Atlanticists (the comprador bourgeoisie for the USA – a term usually reserved for countries of colonial or semi-colonial status) were largely representatives of finance capital. These were interested in the freedom of shipping capital reserves freely across international boundaries. They are also termed “liberal internationalists” by van der Pijil.

In contrast the “Euro-nationalists” represented industrial capital – and were interested in ensuring reinvestment in and redeveloping a European heavy industrial base. They supported single ‘sovereign’ or independent, state funding of heavy industry and can be termed state monopolists .

As an internal intra-European battle between these two segments of capital occurred, the USA imperialists initially favoured steps to a pan-European supra-national state. Of course this single supra-national state, has still not been achieved. However between 1945-1998 – there were periods where the European Euronationalist capitalist powers waxed and waned, as USA imperialism counter attacked.

Regardless of whose interests it served, the overall tendency was towards a move for unity of the smaller European countries. Only later was directed against the USA hegemony. The class character of the European coalescing would shift form a pro-USA vassal coalition to an anti-USA coalition. Ultimately this would end up being dominated by the German bourgeoisie.

Through this period, the fading British imperialists continued to rely and favour USA imperialism. In fact it was actually Ernest Bevin, British Foreign Secretary who first proposed the NATO alliance:

“The actual initiative to found a North Atlantic military alliance was taken by Ernest Bevin in 1948 following a series of defence treaties between Western European states… Bevin .. in early 1948, urged … formal Atlantic cohesion of a political nature.. to USA Ambassador Lew Douglas.. the treaty establishing the NATO was concluded in April 1949”

(Van Pijl Ibid p. 157).

Early on French imperialism, as represented by General De Gaulle, wished to utilise USA strength to stand against the USA. The early events were summarised as below:

“The war encouraged a proliferation of new schemes for European regional organisation. De Gaulle for instance repeatedly voiced the idea that European unity might be a bulwark against both the Soviet Union and the United States, and comparable arguments were heard in various segments of the German, Italian, and Dutch bourgeoisie Resistances….

Churchill’s proposal for a Council of Europe provides probably the best example of the (Atlanticist) concept of European unity… coupled to Britain’s desire to maintain its special link with the Commonwealth and the United States.. “

(Van Der Pijl, K. Ibid; p26; London 2012).

In contrast:

“The Euronational concept combined a number of state-monopolisitic attributes like a strong emphasis on a “European” economic policy with a distinct rejection of Atlantic unity” ;

(Van Der Pijl, K. Ibid; p26; London 2012).

The first USA steps to infiltrate Europe were actually before the Second World War. In most accounts, Jean Monnet the post-war Finance Minster of France figures prominently:

“Jean Monnet… was perhaps one of the foremost in the European postwar leaders to see the necessity of a coalition of European countries…. As early as 1921 Monnet had advised Eduard Benes: To address the problem of the weakness of Central European economic by establishing a “federation because of the region formed a “natural economic unit.”

(James Laxer. “Inventing Europe”; Toronto, 1991.p. 27).

Later in the Second World War: 

“Writing on behalf of the French Committee of National Liberation, Monnet for the first time advocated the formation of a federation of European states to be established following the conflict..”

(Laxer, Ibid, p. 27).

But Jean Monnet was in reality, a pro-USA comprador. He had spent many years working in banking in the USA and had married a scion of the US ruling classes. Ultimately he saw not a rivalry between the USA and pan-Europe, but a partnership, which later USA President Kennedy was also to espouse (van Pijl p. 29):

“The most important representative of the Atlantic Partnership, or Euramerican concept in France was Jean Monnet. 1962 was Monnet’s year of triumph, in which he thought the partnership of equals between the US and the EEC, by which the Soviet union could be effectively checked, was actually materializing. In Monnet’s view this would entail European military autonomy as well. ‘Equal partnership must also apply to the responsibilities of common defense, it requires amongst other things, the organisation of a European atomic force including Britain and in partnership with the US.”

(Van der Pijl: Ibid; P. 225).

Monnet’s relationship with the USA ruling class representatives of capital was close at even a personal level:

“There is no doubt.. Monnet’s initiatives .. owed much to American encouragement. His decisive advantage was the closeness of his association with the USA political elite.. the Dulles brothers, Acheson, Harriman, McCloy, Ball and Brice and others.. he was to become widely distrusted in his own country because of it..”

(Anderson, Perry. “The New Old World”; London 2009 p.15)

“Monnet’s strength as an architect of integration (i.e. of Europe – ed) did not lie in any particular leverage with European cabinets… but in his direct line to Washington.”

(Anderson, Perry. Ibid; p. 17)

By May 1949, the first concrete post-war steps for uniting Europe into a pro-Atlantic (i.e. pro-USA) bloc led to the Statute of the Council of Europe.

On 9 May 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed to integrate the coal and steel industries of Europe. The Schumann Proposal for the European Iron and Steel Community, was designed to form a competitive market in iron and steel, using substantial public sector capital. Britain refused to join at that stage. By 1958, trade in the ECSC in steel had increased by 157% and steel output by 65% (Laxer, p. 38).

In “Alliance Marxist-Leninist” of October 1992, the Schumann Plan was portrayed as an anti-American move; and Jean Monnet as a Euronationalist. Alliance was incorrect in this analysis. (Alliance Marxist-Leninist ALLIANCE (MARXIST-LENINIST (Number 3, October 1992) “Crisis In Capital And Their Solution – Free Trade And Protectionism In Developed Countries”

The reality was far more complex. In fact the USA had argued that the Schumann Plan was of use since:

“Secretary of State Acheson in 1951 estimated that the Schumann Plan was useful.. since it would “pull Germany, certainly Western Germany into economic relationship with Europe. It will tie it in and lay a foundation which will ally fears the Germany might come loose and go off on an independent or pro-Russian policy.”

(van Pijl Ibid p. 157) .

The USA imperialists with their European stooges – and even with the Euro-nationalists – at this stage all continued to agree that Europe needed to unite. The vision of many planners of USA strategy, was akin to that of Paul Hoffman – leading member of the Committee headed by Averell Harriman secretary of Commerce – speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1950:

“We know that there is no possibility of Europe becoming the kind of an economy that will make it a great force of strength in the Atlantic community unless we break down the barriers between those 17 political subdivisions with which we are working… so that you have a single market, or something close to it, in which you will have large-scale manufacturing because you have a large market in which to sell it.”

(Van Pijl Ibid p. 197)

Britain and France after Suez, had to accept that in the immediate future, their only role on the world stage would be as a junior partner to USA imperialism. They threw their lot in with the Americans. The USA used their influence with the British to disrupt attempts at a defence force independent of the US.

But as the USA became ever more hegemonic in Europe, De Gaulle and others turned to resist USA incursion. This was forseen by J.V.Stalin:

“Britain and France .. are imperialist countries.. Can it be assumed that they will endlessly tolerate the present situation in which.. Americans are penetrating into the economies of Britain and France and trying to convert them into adjuncts of the USA economy?

…Would it not be truer to say that capitalist Britain and France will be 
compelled in the end to break from the embrace of the USA and enter into conflict with it in order to secure an independent position and of course high profits?”

(J.V. Stalin, “Economic problems of the Socialism in the USSR”; Moscow, 1952. p. 38).

The loosening of the dependency chains on European nations formed by the credit of the USA Marshall Plan would take several interim steps.

By 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed which established the European Economic Community (EEC). Consistent with its overall European strategy, the formation of the EEC was supported by the USA. In fact:

Eisenhower (said) .. that the Treaty of Rome would be one of the finest days in the history of the free world, perhaps even more so than winning the war”;

(Anderson; Ibid; p. 18).

There was now a dramatic opening of the European market for financial penetration – to take over European industries, as well as their markets:

“The shift from commercial to financial penetration (ie of Europe – by the USA -ed) was confirmed by the formation of the EEC. The Common Market dramatically changed American prospects for expansion in this respect.“

(Van der Pijil; Ibid, p.193)

In reply to De Gaulle, the USA attempted to weaken the development of the future European Union, by using its stooge the weak British imperialists. Thereupon French General De Gaulle later on vetoed the entry of Great Britain into the EEC for precisely this reason.

By the time of Nixon and Kissinger, the situation had shifted. Now the USA perceived the threat in the now built up European Community:

“(they) started to perceive the potential for a rival great power in Western Europe”;

(Anderson Ibid p. 21).

How had things changed so dramatically? The balance of power between the Euronationalists and the pro-US Atlanticists had changed after the rise of the dollar hegemony. To recap, the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 to stay on a gold convertibility was simply put aside by the USA. By the 1960s, under USA President Johnson, inflation was created by printing more dollars. This enabled the USA to fund the Vietnam War and its limited social reforms of the so-called ‘Great Society” (Dean & Pringle Ibid p.80; Palmer Ibid p.61). This had dire consequences:

“The net result in the succeeding decades was a scale of Federal domestic budget deficit and increasingly, balance of payments deficit without precedent in US history. At first the deficits and consequential outflow of dollars into the world economy had been regarded as benign.. The deficits initially helped to finance the mutual economic recovery of Americans’ allied (and client) economies. But as the outflow of dollars turned into a might flood, American control over banks grew by leaps and bounds, Between 1970 and 1975 the assets of overseas branches of US banks grew from $47 billion to $166 billion. The over-valued US dollar came to be seen as the means by which European industry was being acquired cheaply by US interests… fears were expressed that Western Europe was being turned into a fiefdom of US multinationals.. By the late 1960s the gap between the US dollar’s internal purchasing power and its international value had widened alarmingly. The Europeans were faced with the choice of either accepting these depreciating dollars (and thus, in effect, of subsidizing the American economy and worldwide military and political commitments) or exploiting America’s Bretton Woods commitment to swap dollars for gold at the fixed prices.”

(Palmer Ibid p. 62).

De Gaulle remarked early on, that this was a USA attack using dollarization of the world economy, and warned that:

“The Americans only used the atom device twice on Asia. … but they use the dollar on Europe every day”

(Cited Palmer, John: “Europe without America? The crisis in Atlantic Relations”; Oxford; 1988; p.62)

Essentially the USA was pursuing a policy of financial export to drive acquisition of European industrial and financial companies. Simultaneously it unwittingly began the financialization driving world inflation – from ‘hot money’. European nationalist leaders of many countries objected. As well as De Gaulle, French President Giscard d’Estaing objected:

“It is rather remarkable that the war in Vietnam, a localized conflict of a very special nature involving a great power and a small power could have such a far reaching effects on world economic equilibrium.. Any other country that was faced with a balance-of-payment deficit of this magnitude would have been obliged to take steps to restore balance whereas the US was not obliged to do so; the method of financing its deficit exempted it from having to restore equilibrium and it was therefore a system which caused considerable inequality in the interplay of monetary power…”

(Hudson, Michael, Global Fracture, the new international Economic Order. New York, 1977; p.31).

In another more serious threat to USA hegemony, the German state had become more pro-independent. Earlier leaders (Konrad Ardenauer Chancellor [1949-1962] and Ludwig Erhard [Chancellor 1963-1965]) of post-war West Germany had been resolutely pro-USA. The attitude of later German leaders can be gauged from a remark made by Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (Chancellor 1974-1982) when he decried:

“The misuse of the dollar as an instrument of US foreign policy.”

(Cited Palmer John: “Europe without America? The crisis in Atlantic Relations”; Oxford; 1988; p. 10)

This reaction against the USA had its counterpart in Britain in the Westland Helicopter crisis, where Defence Minister Michael Hesletine revolted against Mrs Thatcher. He was soon despatched by the stalwart pro-USA Mrs Thatcher. This was pointed out by the Communist League at the time.

The salient point is that the USA fiscal policies prompted the Euronationalists to move towards the European Monetary System (EMS) and before that the Snake. This then became the European Monetary Union (EMU):

“European Community alarm at the misuse of the dollar’s privileged position in the world currency system encouraged the EEC states to distance themselves in monetary policy from the US in the late 1970’s. President Valery Giscard D’Estaing of France led – despite British opposition – to the creation of … the EMS.. the breakup of the dollar-dominated monetary system also marked the end of the earlier Atlantic consensus enshrined in the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944”;

(Palmer J ibid p. 11).

In Alliance Marxist-Leninist Number 3, 1992, we traced the rise of the European Union and the emerging hegemonic role of the unified single German State – after the disintegration of the Comecon states including former East Germany.

We concluded Alliance 3 by characterising the then inter-imperial rivalries as follows:

The current crisis of capital forces formation of blocs.

The current epoch is one of a disintegration of the power of the USA imperialists and an increase in power of the German and thereby European imperialists and the Japanese imperialists. Each of these competitors strive to create a super trading bloc; within whose borders free trade (or ‘ freer trade’) occurs. Outside of the bloc, protectionism is the policy.

These policies result from the major crisis of over-production that the world is experiencing. The final rupture of the Comecon capitalist block offers the only untapped market; and so the Blocs are trying to extend themselves into the ex-Comecon markets.

In the case of the USA Free Trade Bloc being set up between Mexico, the USA and Canada; the Block is clearly under the domination of the USA. Here there is no effective balance between opposing international imperialism. The differences between the European imperialists do allow for a certain balance; this is not achievable between the USA and Canada; and less so between USA and Mexico.

….. The European Economic Community is more delicately balanced between the competing imperialists. Of the nations within the fold, only Britain (now a junior partner) has significant allegiance to the USA. The others are far more committed to the EEC; even risking domination by Germany.

In the Far East, it is likely that a massive trading bloc between Japan and China is going to make it impossible for many of the Pacific basin nations not to enter an alliance dominated by the Japanese imperialists.

These maneuvers are the first salvoes of the next World War.”

(Alliance 3: Ibid:

We believe that these assessments – overall – remain correct. They are also, consistent with Stalin’s famous prediction that under capitalism competitive wars for markets were inevitable, and that sooner or later – Europe would chafe under USA domination:

“Inevitability of Wars between Capitalist Countries”; Some comrades think that owing to the development of new international conditions since the Second World War, wars between capitalist countries have ceased to be inevitable. These comrades are mistaken. Outwardly everything would seem to be going well; the USA has put Western Europe, Japan, and other capitalist countries on rations; Germany (Western), Britain, France, Italy & Japan have fallen into the clutches of the USA and are meekly obeying its commands. But it would be mistaken to think that things can continue to “go well” for ” all eternity”, that these countries will tolerate the domination and oppression of the United States endlessly, that they will not endeavor to tear loose from American bondage and take the part of independent development.”

(Stalin; ‘Economic Problems of the USSR”: Peking; p.33).

Now in 2015, as we update the picture in 2015, the basic rhythm of inter-imperialist struggle has not changed dramatically but become even more intense. The final crumbling of the ex-Comecon countries postponed the ‘final reckoning’ of the European and USA rivalries. And yet rivalries have sharpened with the entry of China into the leading echelons of imperialist rivalry. In this period:

i) Germany has benefited the most and now become the leading (if not yet quite hegemonic) partner of the imperialist coalition of the EU.

ii) The EU has expanded enormously to now include the so-called Southern fringe (including Greece, Portugal, Spain, with continuing discussion with Turkey); and the ex-Comecon countries.

iii) There has been a renewed attempt of the Russian bourgeoisie led by Putin to recreate its own imperial zone.

iv) China has dramatically enhanced its imperial might and come to near logger-heads with the neighboring Pacific Oceanic states – in particular those nations most tied to the USA (Japan, Philippines).

v) The most advanced of the former under-developed colonised world (Brazil, India) have been organized by the renewed Chinese imperialists into conglomerates that pose increasing challenges to both the USA and EU hegemony. Namely BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the newly created International Bank.

The still unresolved contradiction at the heart of the European Community

Of course the EU has a major problem: Even now, it is not a unitary state with unitary fiscal policies. Although the leaders of the EU wish to concentrate power against the USA, they are unwilling to cede complete national autonomy to a Supra-European force – (namely the European Union based at Brussels). However while EU leaders can attempt to combine the monetary resources, unless there is a complete political unity – there are centrifugal forces they cannot control. For this would require to be overcome, a single unitary Bank.

This is far from a new realisation. The insoluble contradiction was pointed out by astute economists long ago such as Lord Nicholas Kaldor (1908-1986). Kaldor was a Keynesian, who polemicized against both Milton Friedman and Mrs. Thatcher’s worship of monetarism. He cited Keynes to say:

“Keynes (a pamphlet far ahead of the times and ahead of much of his own future writing on the subject), in which he branded monetary policy as ‘simply a campaign against the standard of life of the working classes’, operating through the ‘deliberate intensification of unemployment . . . by using the weapon of economic necessity against individuals and against particular industries — a policy which the country would never permit if it knew what was being done’.

(J. M. Keynes, The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill (London, 1925), reprinted in the Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes Vol. IX (London, 1972), pp. 207-30; Cited Foreword Second edition; Kaldor, N: The Scourge of Monetarism”; Oxford 1986.

In 1971, Kaldor pointed out that in the proposed Eurozone, there would be a tendency for some countries “to acquire increasing (and unwanted surpluses) in their trade with other members, whilst others face increasing deficits”. This could only be overcome he foresaw, by fuller political union:

“The events of the last few years … have demonstrated that the Community is not viable with its present degree of economic integration. The system presupposes full currency convertibility and fixed exchange rates among the members, whilst leaving monetary and fiscal policy to the discretion of the individual member countries. Under this system, as events have shown, some countries will tend to acquire increasing (and unwanted surpluses) in their trade with other members, whist others face increasing deficits. This has two unwelcome effects. It transmits inflationary pressures emanating from some members to other members; and it causes the surplus countries to provide automatic finance on an increasing scale to the deficit countries.

Since exchange-rate adjustments or “floating rates” between members are held to be incompatible with the basic aim of economic integration (and are incompatible also with the present system of common agricultural prices fixed in international units) the governments of the Six, at their Summit meeting in The Hague in December 1969, agreed in principle to the creation of a full economic and monetary union, and appointed a high-level committee (the so-called “Werner Committee”) to work out a concrete programme of action..”

(Nicholas Kaldor On European Political Union Cited by Ramanan, 6 November 2012; in The Case For Concerted Action Post-Keynesian Ideas For A Crisis That Conventional Remedies Cannot Resolve; at

Those planning a momentary union explicitly recognised that in the ultimate “third phase” the “individual central beings (being) would be abolished altogether, or reduced to the state of the old colonial “Currency Boards”:

“The realisation of economic and monetary union, as recommended in the Werner Report, involves three kinds of measures, each introduced in stages: monetary union, tax harmonisation, and central community control over national budgets.  It envisages a three-stage programme, with each stage lasting about three years, so that the whole plan is designed to be brought into operation by 1978-80.

In the monetary field in the first stage the interest and credit policy of each central bank is increasingly brought under common Community surveillance and permitted margins of variations between exchange rates are reduced or eliminated. In the second stage exchange rates are made immutable and “autonomous parity adjustments” are totally excluded. In the third stage the individual central banks are abolished altogether, or reduced to the status of the old colonial “Currency Boards” without any credit creating power.”

(Nicholas Kaldor Ibid)

Other political issues would also pose problems including the harmonisation of tax differences and differing budget polices requiring “fiscal standardisation” between countries:

“In the field of tax harmonisation it is envisaged that each country’s system should be increasingly aligned to that of other countries, and that there should be “fiscal standardisation” to permit the complete abolition of fiscal frontiers, which means not only identical forms but also identical rates of taxation, particularly in regard to the value added tax and excise duties.

In the field of budgetary control the Werner Report says “the essential elements of the whole of the public budgets, and in particular variations in their volume, the size of balances and the methods of financing or utilizing them, will be decided at the Community level.”

(Nicholas Kaldor Ibid)

However, ominously for the proponents of a single currency – responsibilities to have individual country Budgets and tax polices set centrally – were not envisaged as necessary. This was according to Kaldor, “the basic contradiction”:

“What is not envisaged is that the main responsibility for public expenditure and taxation should be transferred from the national Governments to the Community. Each member will continue to be responsible for raising the revenue for its own expenditure (apart from the special taxes which are paid to finance the Community’s own budget but which will remain a relatively small proportion of total public expenditure and mainly serve the purposes of the Agriculture Fund and other development aid).

And herein lies the basic contradiction of the whole plan.”

(Nicholas Kaldor Ibid)

Kaldor argued this had to have harsh implications for inequity in the well-being of the peoples of different countries. It was clear that unless “harmonisation” of country provision of benefits paid through by taxation – was ensured, there would be rising inequity:

“For the Community also envisages that the scale of provision of public services (such as the social services) should be “harmonised” – i.e., that each country should provide such benefits on the same scale as the others and be responsible for financing them by taxation raised from its own citizens. This clearly cannot be done with equal rates of taxation unless all Community members are equally prosperous and increase their prosperity at the same rate as the other members. Otherwise the taxation of the less prosperous and/or the slower-growing countries is bound to be higher (or rise faster) than that of the more prosperous (or faster-growing) areas.”

(Nicholas Kaldor Ibid)

In turn, this rising inequity in the poorer countries would likely need to be countered by spiraling taxes, in order to maintain a “fiscal balance” with the remained of “the Community.” But this would then become the source of “vicious circle” as these higher taxes would lead to a further compromise of the less “competitive” countries. Worsening of the inter-country inequity would need for distributing relief funds from the center:

“The Community will control each member country’s fiscal balance – i.e., it will ensure that each country will raise enough in taxation to prevent it from getting into imbalance with other members on account of its fiscal deficit. To ensure this the taxes in the slow growing areas are bound to be increased faster; this in itself will generate a vicious circle, since with rising taxation they become less competitive and fall behind even more, thereby necessitating higher social expenditures (on unemployment benefits, etc.) and more restrictive fiscal policies. A system on these lines would create rapidly growing inequalities between the different countries, and is bound to break down in a relatively short time. …

This is only another way of saying that the objective of a full monetary and economic union is unattainable without a political union; and the latter pre-supposes fiscal integration, and not just fiscal harmonisation. It requires the creation of a Community Government and Parliament which takes over the responsibility for at least the major part of the expenditure now provided by national governments and finances it by taxes raised at uniform rates throughout the Community. With an integrated system of this kind, the prosperous areas automatically subside the poorer areas; and the areas whose exports are declining obtain automatic relief by paying in less, and receiving more, from the central Exchequer. The cumulative tendencies to progress and decline are thus held in check by a “built-in” fiscal stabiliser which makes the “surplus” areas provide automatic fiscal aid to the “deficit” areas.

(Kaldor, Nicholas “On European Political Union Ibid)

Kaldor concluded that the Community’s present plan was like the house which “divided against itself cannot stand” and that “it was “dangerous error: to have a “full economic and monetary union” preceding a political union”:

“The Community’s present plan on the other hand is like the house which “divided against itself cannot stand.” Monetary union and Community control over budgets will prevent a member country from pursuing full employment policies on its own – from taking steps to offset any sharp decline in the level of its production and employment, but without the benefit of a strong Community government which would shield its inhabitants from its worst consequences.

Some day the nations of Europe may be ready to merge their national identities and create a new European Union – the United States of Europe. If and when they do, a European Government will take over all the functions which the Federal government now provides in the U.S., or in Canada or Australia. This will involve the creation of a “full economic and monetary union”. But it is a dangerous error to believe that monetary and economic union can precede a political union or that it will act (in the words of the Werner report) “as a leaven for the evolvement of a political union which in the long run it will in any case be unable to do without”. For if the creation of a monetary union and Community control over national budgets generates pressures which lead to a breakdown of the whole system it will prevent the development of a political union, not promote it.”

(Nicholas Kaldor Ibid)

We believe that the current crisis in Greece, fully confirms these warning. However Kaldor being a representative of the ruling capitalist class in Britain, could hardly envisage a political solution of benefit to the goals of achieving a socialist Europe. It is in this backdrop, that the Greek Crisis plays out.

6. The Greek Economic Crisis 2009-2015 – How did it get to this stage?

Throughout the turn towards Europe, the ruling class of Greece faced the hostility of the Greek working class and the rural small peasants. Nonetheless the ruling class allied itself firmly to the European imperialist bloc of the European Union (Previously the EEC). To recap: the Greek state opened the doors to foreign debt. From the viewpoint of a small capitalist class, who were not about to enter a left policy – there was no alternative. In doing so they also built a bureaucratic state machine, packed with protégés of the states. In addition the overwhelming strength of petit-bourgeois production – combined to allow a nepotistic and corrupt state. In this period, the Greek capitalist economy did not do very well.

In reality profits for the leading elite of the Greek capitalist class were immense. While the international financial capitalists are a giant leech on the back of the people, the main enemy of working people, remains the Greek capitalist class.

A common complaint from European bankers is that the Greek people are lazy and inherently corrupt. This propaganda has found resonance in otherwise progressive and people – who are themselves hard-pressed by capital. It is therefore important to refute the slander on “the lazy Greek people” – and attach the charge of laziness and parasitism to where it belongs – to the ruling capitalist class of Greece. The propaganda often cites the “lax tax laws” and the ‘pampered pension clauses’. Let us examine these aspects first.

i) Tax and Pensions in Greece

The capitalist class structured the tax system to its advantage, and also enabled the petit-bourgeois:

“Greek taxation is a mess (there are six different bands and the wealthiest band of shipping is often referred to as a “tax-free zone”) and over 133 separate pension funds.” Buchanan, Rose T; “Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess”; The Independent 4 July 2015;

“Data from one of Greece’s ten largest banks, (allowed) economists Nikolaos Artavanis, Adair Morse and Margarita (estimate lost tax revenue)…. The economists’ conservatively estimate that in 2009 some €28 billion in income went unreported. Taxed at 40%, that equates to €11.2 billion — nearly a third of Greece’s budget deficit.
Why hasn’t Greece done more to stop tax evasion? The economists were also able to identify the top tax-evading occupations — doctors and engineers ranked highest — and found they were heavily represented in Parliament”.

“Greeks Hide Tens of Billions From Tax Man”; Wall St Journal 9 July 2012.

The scandal of refusal to take action on the “Lagarde List”, makes the responsibility of the Greek ruling class for the “tax imbroglio” even more clear:

“The Greek government has not completed an investigation of a list of 1,991 persons purported to hold accounts with Swiss bank HSBC that it received in 2010 from former French finance minister Christine Lagarde. Initially, officials claimed at various times to have lost or misplaced the information. On 29 October 2012 the government changed its position saying it would not use stolen information to prosecute suspected offenders. Instead, Greek authorities arrested Kostas Vaxevanis, journalist and editor of the weekly magazine Hot Doc, who published the “Lagarde list.”

The list includes an advisor to former Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras, as well as a former minister and a member of Samaras’ New Democracy political party. The list also contains the names of officials in the finance ministry.
Mr. Vaxevanis said he thought the government had not acted on the list because it included friends of ministers, businessmen and powerful publishers.


ii) Pensions

First if examined by unadjusted numbers it does appear that the Greek pension system is the most expensive in the OECD countries. We follow the Wall Street Journal analysis of February 2015 (Dalton, Matthew: “Greece’s Pension System Isn’t That Generous After All”; February 27 2015;

Graphs 1-3 on Pensions In Greece
“First, how much does Greece spend as percentage of GDP on pensions? The data from Eurostat looks like this as of 2012, with Greece expenditure easily highest in the eurozone as a percentage of GDP:


However – the Wall Street Journal goes on to break this down, first as a percent of GDP and then by the proportion of pensioners over the age of 65 years:

“But part of that is due to the collapse in GDP suffered by Greece during the crisis… look at pension expenditure as a percentage of potential GDP, the level of economic output were eurozone economies running at full capacity:


“Greece is still near the top, though it’s not so far from the eurozone average. Moreover, Greece’s high spending is largely the result of bad demographics: 20% of Greeks are over age 65, one of the highest percentages in the eurozone. What if instead you attempt to adjust for that by looking at pension spending per person over 65 (graph below). Adjusting for the fact that Greece has a lot of older people, its pension spending is below the eurozone average.”


And finally a large proportion of the population are pensioners over 65 and many households depend on the pension:

“First, demographics. About 20.5% of Greeks are over 65 – behind only Italy and Germany in the EU when it comes to an ageing population. And with the country’s youth unemployment rate still above 50%, its young people are not going to be able to pay for their grandparents pensions any time soon.

Second, Greek society has a dependency on pensioners. One in two households rely on pensions to make ends meet and the country has an old-age dependancy ratio above 30%, which means that for every 100 people of working age in Greece there are 30 people aged 65 or over.

Third, Greek pensions aren’t so generous. About 45% of pensioners receive pensions below what is considered the poverty limit of €665 per month.
Looking at the actual expenditure on beneficiaries, Greece’s figures don’t stand out as exceptional and are instead on par with the EU average.”

(Nardelli, Alberto: “ Unsustainable futures? The Greek pensions dilemma explained“; Guardian, 15 June 2015; at

There is no doubt a large financial burden form the pension schemes – but they provide at an individual level a very modest income:

“What makes the country’s pension system unsustainable is not the specific size of each individual pension, but the overall cost of a grossly inefficient and badly funded system (yes, mainly due to of decades of endemic tax evasion that means as much tax revenue slips through Athens’ fingers as it collects). According to analysis by Macropolis, the average pension in Greece is roughly €700 per month, while the supplementary one is €169.
The same analysis also shows that nearly 90% (€2.07bn) of the total monthly expenditure (€2.35bn) on pensions in March went towards the main pension.
It also reveals that only 0.6% of supplementary pensions were above €500 a month.
For 60% of pensioners the total gross monthly intake is below €800. In addition, many retirees in Greece have already seen their pensions cut. Some by a third, others by nearly 50%.

(Nardelli,; Guardian, 15 June 2015; Ibid)

Moreover, although cutting them might shave off some debt – not only is this unable to repair the basic financial problem of a dependent economy:

“In 2012, pension funds, which were obliged under a law introduced in 1950 by the then king of Greece, Paul I, to keep a minimum of 77% of their assets in government bonds, took an €8.3bn hit following the restructuring of sovereign debt.
Nearly a third of what pension funds have lost since then is due to a fall in contributions on the back of surging unemployment. The unemployment rate is still painfully high (26.6%, while in 2009 it was 9.5%), and nearly eight out of 10 of the country’s jobless have been out of work for 12 months or more.
Any saving brought about by simply purging early retirees’ benefits, cutting supplementary pensions horizontally across the board, or revenue raised by squeezing a drastically depleted pool of taxpayers, would in the short-term allow Greece to unlock the €7bn tranche of bailout funds it needs to carry on servicing its debt (and not default).
However, it would do little to solve the underlying challenges in the longer term.”

(Nardelli,; Guardian, 15 June 2015; Ibid)

Debt and printing money drive Greek Inflation

As discussed in prior sections, the ruling class used inflationary funding to enable it to fool and quieten the working classes. The scale of this is shown below.

“Greece has had a tricky time with its finances. In the 1990s it consistently ran significant budget deficits while using the Drachma. As a result of this economic mismanagement it joined the Euro in 2001, rather than 1999 like many other EU nations.” (Buchanan, Rose T; “Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess”; The Independent 4 July 2015;

The following Graph 4, from the ‘Michael Roberts Blog,” tracks the inflation to the deflation tipping point, after the debt crisis became evident:


(Roberts M; ‘Greece Cannot Escape”; 2nd Nov 2014:

However, once it was in the Eurozone, Greece’s government could no longer so easily use inflationary economics to easily boost living standards, as it was bound by the Eurozone and the single currency.

The alternative of devaluing its currency to boost its exports was also not possible. This left only loans. Since it was now the era of financial ‘hot money’ and rampant money-speculation had become standard, this was easy at first, and the inflation graph shows that even the loan-injection money fueled a degree of inflation. But the spigot was soon to be turned off with the Wall Street crash:

“Shortly after joining the single currency, Greece enjoyed a period of growth (2001-2007). However, economist and analysts have retrospectively labeled this boom as “unsustainable,” pointing out that Greece (very broadly speaking) profited off the cheap loans available from the EU. This house of cards came tumbling down with the financial crash of 2008. Like many other countries in the EU Greece was seriously affected, but it was unable to climb out of the hole as it had in the past by printing more currency (thus boosting the economy) as the Euro was controlled by the European Central Bank (ECB). Unemployment spiraled to 28 per cent.”

(Buchanan, Rose T; “Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess”; The Independent 4 July 2015;

Greece’s relationship to the EU was as a dependent colony to the leading capitalist countries of the EU. These were of course Germany and also France.
International agencies progressively lent Greek governments large amounts of money. Consequently, Greece progressively developed an external debt of gigantic proportions as seen below in the brown/dark red line (Graph 5):


What is the nature of these debt burdens that the Greek government faces?
The German locomotive pushing the EU economy – needed markets. The “under-developed” Southern perimeter of the EU was one of the natural “new” markets:

“Economist Paul Krugman wrote in February 2012:

“What we’re basically looking at…is a balance of payments problem, in which capital flooded south after the creation of the euro, leading to overvaluation in southern Europe.”

He continued in June 2015:

“In truth, this has never been a fiscal crisis at its root; it has always been a balance of payments crisis that manifests itself in part in budget problems, which have then been pushed onto the center of the stage by ideology.”

The translation of trade deficits to budget deficits works through sectoral balances. Greece ran current account (trade) deficits averaging 9.1% GDP from 2000–2011. By definition, a trade deficit requires capital inflow (mainly borrowing) to fund; this is referred to as a capital surplus or foreign financial surplus. This can drive higher levels of government budget deficits, if the private sector maintains relatively even amounts of savings and investment, as the three financial sectors (foreign, government, and private) by definition must balance to zero.
While Greece was running a large foreign financial surplus, it funded this by running a large budget deficit. As the inflow of money stopped during the crisis, reducing the foreign financial surplus, Greece was forced to reduce its budget deficit substantially. Countries facing such a sudden reversal in capital flows typically devalue their currencies to resume the inflow of capital; however, Greece cannot do this, and has suffered significant income (GDP) reduction, another form of devaluation.”


Lord Kaldor’s warnings about this developing were discussed above.

Who owns this debt?

Graph 6: Current account imbalances in the European Union (1997–2014)

The graph below (from Wikipedia at:
shows that one of the major owners is Germany. In more detail, the ‘Economist Online” of October 2011 described the major ownership of the Greek debt. The main institutions owning the Greek debt are the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB) and various European governments:

“Greece has total debts of €346.4bn. About a third of this debt is in public hands (34.8% is attributable to the IMF, ECB and European governments), roughly another third is in Greek hands (28.8%, essentially for banks) with the remainder (36.4%) held by non-Greek private investors.


And the New York Times Business news cites similar data:

“Almost two-thirds of Greece’s debt, about 200 billion euros, is owed to the eurozone bailout fund or other eurozone countries. Greece does not have to make any payments on that debt until 2023”. (Editor: Graph 7: below graphically displays the ownership of the debt.)


Greece’s debt crisis explained” – International Business; New York Times updated July 27, 2015

During this period, Greece’s finances were monitored by external agencies, largely those who had loaned monies to Greece. These were the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Community (EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB). These formed the so-called Troika. The Troika was to become hated by the Greek peoples as they plunged Greece into major social chaos and forced the living standards of the Greek people down.

As the New York Times comments, in many ways the “crisis” can be considered as a manufactured one as only a portion of debt is coming due in the short term:

“The International Monetary Fund has proposed extending the grace period until mid-century. So while Greece’s total debt is big—as much as double the country’s annual economic output—it might not matter much if the government did not need to make payments for decades to come. By the time the money came due, the Greek economy could have grown enough that the sum no longer seemed daunting.
In the short term, though, Greece has a problem making payments due on loans from the International Monetary Fund and on bonds held by the European Central Bank. Those obligations amount to more than 24 billion euros through the middle of 2018, and it is unlikely that either institution would agree to long delays in repayment.”
Greece’s debt crisis explained” – International Business; New York Times updated July 27, 2015

Two additional problems have conspired to make the “original sin” of debt – of even more enormous consequence.
Firstly, quite early on during this crisis, it was clear to the Troika lenders that the Greek government was in trouble in repaying any significant fraction of this debt. However this was ignored. In fact the IMF – despite its own rules and despite the worries about “default” – continued to fuel the fire of debt by giving more loans.

Then secondly, to worsen matters, the Greek government falsified data about the extent of its debt, and was helped by the greed of USA banking capital.

As early as 2004, in its negotiations with the EU, the ruling class of Greece falsified the degree of its debt. Goldman Sachs – the giant stockbroker and trader bank of Wall Street, aided the Greek government in doing this:

“In 2001, Greece was looking for ways to disguise its mounting financial troubles. The Maastricht Treaty required all Eurozone member states to show improvement in their public finances, but Greece was heading in the wrong direction. Then Goldman Sachs came to the rescue, arranging a secret loan of 2.8 billion euros for Greece, disguised as an off-the-books “cross-currency swap”—a complicated transaction in which Greece’s foreign-currency debt was converted into a domestic-currency obligation using a fictitious market exchange rate.

As a result, about 2 percent of Greece’s debt magically disappeared from its national accounts. Christoforos Sardelis, then head of Greece’s Public Debt Management Agency, later described the deal to Bloomberg Business as “a very sexy story between two sinners.” For its services, Goldman received a whopping 600 million euros ($793 million), according to Spyros Papanicolaou, who took over from Sardelis in 2005. That came to about 12 percent of Goldman’s revenue from its giant trading and principal-investments unit in 2001—which posted record sales that year. The unit was run by Blankfein.

Then the deal turned sour. After the 9/11 attacks, bond yields plunged, resulting in a big loss for Greece because of the formula Goldman had used to compute the country’s debt repayments under the swap. By 2005, Greece owed almost double what it had put into the deal, pushing its off-the-books debt from 2.8 billion euros to 5.1 billion. In 2005, the deal was restructured and that 5.1 billion euros in debt locked in. Perhaps not incidentally, Mario Draghi, now head of the European Central Bank and a major player in the current Greek drama, was then managing director of Goldman’s international division.”

(Robert B. Reich ‘How Goldman Sachs Profited From the Greek Debt Crisis”; The Nation16th July 2015;

Such was the pervasive greed, that of course such ‘creative’ financing’ was standard, as explained by Robert Reich:

“Greece wasn’t the only sinner. Until 2008, European Union accounting rules allowed member nations to manage their debt with so-called off-market rates in swaps, pushed by Goldman and other Wall Street banks. In the late 1990s, J.P.Morgan enabled Italy to hide its debt by swapping currency at a favorable exchange rate, thereby committing Italy to future payments that didn’t appear on its national accounts as future liabilities. But Greece was in the worst shape, and Goldman was the biggest enabler. Undoubtedly, Greece suffers from years of corruption and tax avoidance by its wealthy. But Goldman wasn’t an innocent bystander: It padded its profits by leveraging Greece to the hilt—along with much of the rest of the global economy. Other Wall Street banks did the same. When the bubble burst, all that leveraging pulled the world economy to its knees.”

(Robert B. Reich ‘How Goldman Sachs Profited From the Greek Debt Crisis”; The Nation16th July 2015;

Of course such greed driven lying enabled the Greek Government to gain more loans. This was of itself a problem since the country was developing intractable recession.

The Crisis heats up and the infamous Troika Memorandum

By 2009, significant fears that Greece would default on its loans prompted alarm. The Troika made moves to yet another loan – this time of $110 billion – but only if there were significant “austerity measures.” Of course this was intended to be an “austerity” for the working classes and not for the ruling classes:

“From late 2009, fears of a sovereign debt crisis developed among investors concerning Greece’s ability to meet its debt obligations due to strong increase in government debt levels. This led to a crisis of confidence, indicated by a widening of bond yield spreads and risk insurance on credit default swaps compared to other countries, most importantly Germany. Downgrading of Greek government debt to junk bonds created alarm in financial markets.

“On 2 May 2010, the Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund agreed on a €110 billion loan for Greece, conditional on the implementation of harsh austerity measures. In October 2011, Eurozone leaders also agreed on a proposal to write off 50% of Greek debt owed to private creditors, increasing the EFSF to about €1 trillion and requiring European banks to achieve 9% capitalization to reduce the risk of contagion to other countries. These austerity measures have proved extremely unpopular with the Greek public, precipitating demonstrations and civil unrest.”


It was the collapse of the international financial and banking industries from the USA sub-prime crisis which rapidly became an international financial crisis, that mushroomed the Greek situation into a crisis. Greece had no choice but to reveal a truer picture of its deficit financing to the world’s creditors to seek more credit:

“Greece became the epicenter of Europe’s debt crisis after Wall Street imploded in 2008. With global financial markets still reeling, Greece announced in October 2009 that it had been understating its deficit figures for years, raising alarms about the soundness of Greek finances. Suddenly, Greece was shut out from borrowing in the financial markets. By the spring of 2010, it was veering toward bankruptcy, which threatened to set off a new financial crisis.”

“Greece’s debt crisis explained” – International Business; New York Times updated July 27, 2015

Up to around 2011, the loan monies in Greece continued to drive an inflation.
But then a sharp deflation began, as the Troika turned the screw on Greece. The Troika insisted on marked cuts in the living standards of the Greek people the working lass and peasantry. Not the standard of the ruling class of course who has moved its savings out of reach of the Greek state or the Troika. The Troika’s conditions are noted here:

“The so-called troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission — issued the first of two international bailouts for Greece, which would eventually total more than 240 billion euros, or about $264 billion at today’s exchange rates. The bailouts came with conditions. Lenders imposed harsh austerity terms, requiring deep budget cuts and steep tax increases. They also required Greece to overhaul its economy by streamlining the government, ending tax evasion and making Greece an easier place to do business.”

“Greece’s debt crisis explained” – International Business; New York Times updated July 27, 2015

Of course the Greek capitalists complied, and drove down and depressed the wage rates of the Greek people:

“It’s true that the crushing of the living standards and wage earnings of Greek households is making Greek industry more ‘competitive’ – labour costs per unit of (falling) production have dropped 30% since 2010 (See Graph 8 below).


((Roberts M; ‘Greece Cannot Escape”; 2nd Nov 2014:

Again – the burden of ‘austerity’ – was laid only on the working class of Greece:

“When Greece did cut some of its spending, the EU and ECB asked for a reduction in wages rather than a cut in spending. So – for example – while the military budget remains intact, soldiers have seen their wages fall by 40 per cent. Their experience is replicated across other public sector fields – notably in nurses and doctors”. Buchanan, Rose T; “Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess”; The Independent 4 July 2015;

An external – German – research agency found that indeed, it was the poor that had suffered disproportionate cuts as compared to the rich:

“The poorest households in the debt-ridden country lost nearly 86% of their income, while the richest lost only 17-20%.  The tax burden on the poor increased by 337% while the burden on upper-income classes increased by only 9% This is the result of a study that has analyzed 260.000 tax and income data from the years 2008 – 2012.
– The nominal gross income of Greek households decreased by almost a quarter in only four years.
– The wages cuts caused nearly half of the decline.
– The net income fell further by almost 9 percent, because the tax burden was significantly increased
–  While all social classes suffered income losses due to cuts, tax increases and the economic crisis, particularly strongly affected were households of low- and middle-income. This was due to sharp increase in unemployment and tax increases, that were partially regressive.
– The total number of employees in the private sector suffered significantly greater loss of income, and they were more likely to be unemployed than those employed in the public sector.
-From 2009 to 2013 wages and salaries in the private sector declined in several stages at around 19 percent. Among other things, because the minimum wage was lowered and collective bargaining structures were weakened. Employees in the public sector lost around a quarter of their income.

Unemployment & Early Retirement
Unemployment surged from 7.3% in the Q2 2008 to 26.6% in the Q2 2014. among youth aged 15-24, unemployment had an average of 44%.
Early retirement in the Private Sector increased by 14%.
Early retirement in the Public Sector* increased by 48%
The researchers see here a clear link to the austerity policy, that’s is the Greek government managed to fulfill the Troika requirements for smaller public sector. However, this trend caused a burden to the social security funds.
* Much to KTG’s knowledge public servants with 25 years in the public administration rushed to early retirement in 2010 out of fear of further cuts in their wages and consequently to their pension rights.

Taxes were greatly increased, but they had a regressive effect.
Since beginning of the austerity, direct taxes increased by nearly 53%, while indirect taxes increased by 22 percent.
The taxation policy has indeed contributed significantly to the consolidation of the public budget, but by doing so the social imbalance was magnified.

Little has been done against tax avoidance and tax evasion, however, the tax base was actually extended “downwards” with the effect that households with low-income and assets were strongly burdened.
Particularly poorer households paid disproportionately more in taxes and the tax burden to lower-income rose by 337%. In comparison, the tax burden to upper-income households rose by only 9%.
In absolute euro amounts, the annual tax burden of many poorer households increased “only” by a few hundred euros. However, with regards to the rapidly declining of incomes and rampant unemployment, this social class was over-burdened with taxes.

The Poor suffered more
On average, the annual income of Greek households before taxes fell from €23,100 euros in 2008 to just below €17,900 euros in 2012. This represents a loss of nearly 23 percent.
The losses were significantly different to each income class with the poorest households to have suffered the biggest losses.
Almost one in three Greek household had to make it through 2012 with an annual income below €7,000”.
(Research of the “German Institute for Macroeconomic Research (IMK) affiliated with the Hans Böckler Foundation”; given blog ‘Keep Talking Greece’; by 20 March 2015; at

Both the Greek ruling class and the Troika saw that this squeeze on the poor and working class, was creating such a social upheaval, as to be potentially pre-revolutionary. Yet they were caught, since the alternatives were dismal for the international capitalist. Even the IMF’s own rules were flouted. In 2010 the situation was as follows in Michael Roberts telling:

“The irony is that while austerity in Greece continues to be applied mercilessly, the IMF recently issued a report that concluded that the Troika’s approach was mistaken in imposing severe fiscal retrenchment back in May 2010 when Greece could no longer finance its spending through borrowing in bond markets (

Back then, the Troika had three options. First, it could have provided a massive fiscal transfer to the Greek government to tide it over without demanding massive cuts in public spending that eventually led to a fall in Greek real GDP of nearly 20%, unemployment of over 25% and government debt to GDP of 170%, with economic depression likely to continue out to the end of the decade.  Or it could have allowed the Greek government to ‘default’ on its debts to the banks, pension funds and hedge funds and negotiate an ‘orderly haircut’ on those debts.  But the Troika did neither and opted instead for a third way.  It insisted that in return for bailout funds the Greek government meet its obligations in full to all its creditors by switching all its available revenues to paying its debts at the expense of jobs, health, education and other public services.

The Troika insisted on this because it reckoned 1) that austerity would be shortlived and economic growth would quickly return and 2) if the banks and others took a huge hit on their balance sheets from a Greek default it would put European banks in danger of going bust (Greek banks first).  There could be ‘contagion’ if other distressed Eurozone governments also opted not to pay their debts, using Greece as the precedent.  Of course, economic growth has not returned and despite huge efforts on the part of Greek governments to meet fiscal targets through unprecedented austerity, government debt has increased rather than fallen and the economy has nosedived.

Eventually, the Troika had to agree that the private sector took a ‘haircut’ after all, massaged as it was with cash sweeteners and new bonds with high yields.  Now the IMF in its report admits that austerity was too severe and debt ‘restructuring’ should have happened from the beginning.  The IMF, now in its semi-Keynesian mode, tries to put the blame for the failure to do this on the EU leaders and the ECB, which has not made the latter too happy, especially as the current IMF chief, Lagarde was strongly in favour of the austerity plan when she was French finance minister in 2010.

“If Greeks had defaulted back in 2010, that could have led to other defaults and Europe’s banks were in no state to absorb such losses.  As a recent study shows, German banks were heavily overleveraged back in 2010 and they are not much better even now.  There was no way the German government was going to put German banks in jeopardy and allow the ‘profligate’ Greeks to get a huge handout of German taxpayers money to boot.  No, the Greeks had to pay their debts, just as the Germans had to pay their reparations to the French after 1918, even if it meant Germany was plunged into permanent depression.  Ironically, the Germans did not and have not paid promised billions in reparations to the Greeks after 1945 – something the Greeks are pursuing in negotiations!”

(Michael Roberts Blog: “Greece, the IMF and debt default; 16th June 2013;“

As noted before, this fueling of the debt by new loans, was against even the principles of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and senior strategists in the IMF warned that the polices of the IMF in regards to Greece were seriously in error, from the year 2010.

As stated above, one underlying reason on insisting that the Greek Government paid its debt fully, was simply the usurer’s wish to ensure that debts owed by Greece to both France and Germany would be honoured. German and French banks had become vulnerable by over-leveraging themselves. (i.e they had loaned so much money that their actual capital holdings were unable to support them if there was a “run” on their deposits). The Eurozone banks had become very vulnerable:

“The Table below shows the degree of ‘domestic leverage’ of the systemically important banks in major Eurozone countries .. in most countries the domestic banking system would not survive a Greek-style ‘haircut’ on public debt. (In March 2012, holders of Greek bonds had to accept a nominal haircut of over 50%, and on a mark-to-market basis the haircut was over 80%. It is apparent that no bank that has a sovereign exposure worth over 100% of its capital would survive such a loss).

Table 4: Domestic sovereign debt leverage (sovereign exposure/capital)

Greece Table

Source: CEPS database. (From Roberts 16 June 2013; “Greece, the IMF and debt default ibid) Michael Roberts Blog: “Greece, the IMF and debt default; 16th June 2013;

Amazingly, the IMF policy remained unchanged – new loans were issued to Greece – at least up till May 2015:

“Greece’s onerous obligations to the IMF, the European Central Bank and European governments can be traced back to April 2010, when they made a fateful mistake. Instead of allowing Greece to default on its insurmountable debts to private creditors, they chose to lend it the money to pay in full.
At the time, many called for immediately restructuring privately held debt, thus imposing losses on the banks and investors who had lent money to Greece. Among them were several members of the IMF’s board and Karl Otto Pohl, a former president of the Bundesbank and a key architect of the euro. The IMF and European authorities responded that restructuring would cause global financial mayhem. As Pohl candidly noted, that was merely a cover for bailing out German and French banks, which had been among the largest enablers of Greek profligacy.

Ultimately, the authorities’ approach merely replaced one problem with another: IMF and official European loans were used to repay private creditors. Thus, despite a belated restructuring in 2012, Greece’s obligations remain unbearable — only now they are owed almost entirely to official creditors.

Five years after the crisis started, government debt has jumped from 130 percent of gross domestic product to almost 180 percent. Meanwhile, a deep economic slump and deflation have severely impaired the government’s ability to repay.
Almost everyone now agrees that pushing Greece to pay its private creditors was a bad idea. The required fiscal austerity was simply too great, causing the economy to collapse. The IMF acknowledged the error in a 2013 report on Greece. In a recent staff paper, the fund said that when a crisis threatens to spread, it should seek a collective global solution rather than forcing the distressed economy to bear the entire burden. The IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, has warned that more austerity will crush growth.

Oddly, the IMF’s proposed way forward for Greece remains unchanged: Borrow more money (this time from the European authorities) to repay one group of creditors (the IMF) and stay focused on austerity. The fund’s latest projections assume that the government’s budget surplus (other than interest payments) will reach 4.5 percent of GDP, a level of belt-tightening that few governments have ever sustained for any significant period of time.

Following Germany’s lead, IMF officials have placed their faith in so-called structural reforms — changes in labor and other markets that are supposed to improve the Greek economy’s longer-term growth potential. They should know better. The fund’s latest World Economic Outlook throws cold water on the notion that such reforms will address the Greek debt problem in a reliable and timely manner. The most valuable measures encourage research and development and help spur high-technology sectors. All this is to the good, but such gains are irrelevant for the next five years. The priority must be to prevent Greece from sinking deeper into a debt-deflation spiral. Unfortunately, some reforms will actually accelerate the spiral by weakening demand.

On April 9, Greece repaid 450 million euros ($480 million) to the IMF, and must pay another 2 billion in May and June. The IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, has made clear that delays in repayments will not be tolerated.

“I would, certainly for myself, not support it,” she told Bloomberg Television.”

Ashoka Mody; Bloomberg 81 April 21 2015; The IMF’s Big Greek Mistake;

Recall – Lagarde was once the Minister of Finance for France:

Graph number 5 (see above) displays that it is not only Greece in
hock” to Germany, but there are several leading Eurozone states in debt to Germany. In especial note the deficits of France and of Italy.

This is the second reason – at least for German imperialism – on insisting that the Greek Government paid its debt fully.
If the Greeks are allowed to default, what happens to the other loans that are outstanding? It has long been recognised that Germany has been running a huge trade surplus, and it has been under pressure to alleviate this for some time:

“For years, Germany has been running a large current account surplus, meaning that it sells a lot more than it buys. The gap has only grown since the start of the crisis, reaching a new record of 215.3 billion euros ($244 billion) in 2014. Such insufficient German demand weakens world growth, which is why the U.S. Treasury and the International Monetary Fund have long prodded the country to buy more. Even the European Commission has concluded that Germany’s current-account imbalance is “excessive.”

(Ashoka Mody, Bloomberg188 July 17, 2015, ‘Germany, Not Greece, Should Exit the Euro’)

Any lifting of the restrictions upon Greece will lead to repercussions as to what happens to the debts of these other leading countries. It is no doubt, for this reason, that both Italy and France have been trying to ease pressures from Germany, arguing that there must be a debt restructuring.

This fits with the later 2015 U-Turn of Cristine Lagarde and the IMF (Discussed in section 9 below) – who are now at the last moment – urging the German government to reduce the obligations of the Greek government of Tsipras. We believe also, that this U-Turn supports the USA wish to attack the German government’s current rising economic strength.

Moreover, the USA government itself – suffers from an astronomical debt.

7. The Marxist View of ‘National Debt’ under capitalism

What do Marxists and other informed economists make of the notion of a national Debt? Falling into debt of a country – or large institutions – has been a historical feature of the growth of capital. Karl Marx pointed this out in ‘Capital’, saying that the “only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters the possession of modern people is their national debt.” In full:

“The system of public credit, i.e., of national debts, whose origin we discover in Genoa and Venice as early as the Middle Ages, took possession of Europe generally during the manufacturing period. The colonial system with its maritime trade and commercial wars served as a forcing-house for it. … National debts, i.e., the alienation of the state – whether despotic, constitutional or republican – marked with its stamp the capitalistic era. The only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters into the collective possessions of modern peoples is their national debt. Hence, as a necessary consequence, the modern doctrine that a nation becomes the richer the more deeply it is in debt. Public credit becomes the credo of capital. And with the rise of national debt-making, want of faith in the national debt takes the place of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which may not be forgiven.

The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation. As with the stroke of an enchanter’s wand, it endows barren money with the power of breeding and thus turns it into capital, without the necessity of its exposing itself to the troubles and risks inseparable from its employment in industry or even in usury. The state creditors actually give nothing away, for the sum lent is transformed into public bonds, easily negotiable, which go on functioning in their hands just as so much hard cash would. But further, apart from the class of lazy annuitants thus created, and from the improvised wealth of the financiers, middlemen between the government and the nation – as also apart from the tax-farmers, merchants, private manufacturers, to whom a good part of every national loan renders the service of a capital fallen from heaven – the national debt has given rise to joint-stock companies, to dealings in negotiable effects of all kinds, and to agiotage, in a word to stock-exchange gambling and the modern bankocracy.

At their birth the great banks, decorated with national titles, were only associations of private speculators, who placed themselves by the side of governments, and, thanks to the privileges they received, were in a position to advance money to the State. Hence the accumulation of the national debt has no more infallible measure than the successive rise in the stock of these banks, whose full development dates from the founding of the Bank of England in 1694. The Bank of England began with lending its money to the Government at 8%; at the same time it was empowered by Parliament to coin money out of the same capital, by lending it again to the public in the form of banknotes. It was allowed to use these notes for discounting bills, making advances on commodities, and for buying the precious metals. It was not long ere this credit-money, made by the bank itself, became. The coin in which the Bank of England made its loans to the State, and paid, on account of the State, the interest on the public debt. It was not enough that the bank gave with one hand and took back more with the other; it remained, even whilst receiving, the eternal creditor of the nation down to the last shilling advanced. Gradually it became inevitably the receptacle of the metallic hoard of the country, and the centre of gravity of all commercial credit. What effect was produced on their contemporaries by the sudden uprising of this brood of bankocrats, financiers, rentiers, brokers, stock-jobbers, &c., is proved by the writings of that time, e.g., by Bolingbroke’s”

(Marx, Karl: Capital Volume One Chapter Thirty-One: Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist; at:

Not only is “National Debt” crucial for the capitalist, but it was coincident with the ‘credit system’, and this in turn was associated with an international trade of capital (i.e. money) and systems of “modern taxation”:

“With the national debt arose an international credit system, which often conceals one of the sources of primitive accumulation in this or that people. Thus the villainies of the Venetian thieving system formed one of the secret bases of the capital-wealth of Holland to whom Venice in her decadence lent large sums of money. So also was it with Holland and England. By the beginning of the 18th century the Dutch manufactures were far outstripped. Holland had ceased to be the nation preponderant in commerce and industry. One of its main lines of business, therefore, from 1701-1776, is the lending out of enormous amounts of capital, especially to its great rival England. The same thing is going on today between England and the United States. A great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any certificate of birth, was yesterday, in England, the capitalised blood of children.”

(Marx, Karl: Capital Volume One Chapter Thirty-One: Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist; at:

Moreover, Marx points out that governments want loans for “extraordinary expenses”. This is because they do not want to tax the people too heavily lest it anger them. But eventually these loans will need an increase in taxes to pay the loan off. Then a vicious circle begins, where even more loans are needed to off-set the higher taxation burden:

“As the national debt finds its support in the public revenue, which must cover the yearly payments for interest, &c., the modern system of taxation was the necessary complement of the system of national loans. The loans enable the government to meet extraordinary expenses, without the tax-payers feeling it immediately, but they necessitate, as a consequence, increased taxes. On the other hand, the raising of taxation caused by the accumulation of debts contracted one after another, compels the government always to have recourse to new loans for new extraordinary expenses. Modern fiscality, whose pivot is formed by taxes on the most necessary means of subsistence (thereby increasing their price), thus contains within itself the germ of automatic progression. Overtaxation is not an incident, but rather a principle. In Holland, therefore, where this system was first inaugurated, the great patriot, DeWitt, has in his “Maxims” extolled it as the best system for making the wage labourer submissive, frugal, industrious, and overburdened with labour. The destructive influence that it exercises on the condition of the wage labourer concerns us less however, here, than the forcible expropriation, resulting from it, of peasants, artisans, and in a word, all elements of the lower middle class. On this there are not two opinions, even among the bourgeois economists. Its expropriating efficacy is still further heightened by the system of protection, which forms one of its integral parts.

(Marx, Karl: Capital Volume One Chapter Thirty-One: Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist; at:

What were these “extraordinary expenditures” the state wished to fund? Even bourgeois economists recognise that wars were one key such expenditures:

“The Bank of England was created… explicitly,, to finance wars, in its case the Nine Years War with France which started in 1688……The Bank of France .. having been started with that name in 1800 specifically to satisfy Napoleon’s wartime financial needs”. (Dean and Pringle Ibid; ‘Central banks”; pp38; p. 42).

Modern bourgeois economists have of course long supported the principle of national debts. Maynard Keynes recognised the utility of deficit financing for the capitalist control of the state, as he stated:

“’Loan expenditure.. may .. enrich the community on balance”; ref 31: (Cited Van Der Pijl, K. ‘The making of an Atlantic ruling class”; p.17; London 2012).

While we cannot dwell further on the subject in this article, the amount of the USA current debt is astonishingly large. So there is nothing reprehensible about the Greek Debt per se. What is at issue is an international lack of confidence that the Greek state would be able to pay it back. There is no underlying manufacturing or trading base to support the debt, and will not be. Unless – a complete break with the past – is offered. However thus far, a meaningful solution has never been on offer by the Greek or international merchants of capital, to the Greek working people.

8. The Debt Crisis leads to an increasing struggle of the growing Greek working class and gives rise to the United Front of Syriza – the political parties of the left

By the time of the current era in 2000-2015, the Greek social and class structure had changed dramatically. Despite the absence of a major manufacturing sector, unemployment was rising, and the urban-rural divide was widening – even before the austerity moves of the Troika:

“Greece is still low on competitiveness and this undermines self-sustaining growth, with low employment rates, low R&D, high levels of poverty, especially in rural and remote areas. The Greek economy grew by 0.7 per cent in the 1980s, compared with 2.4 per cent in other EU states. Demographically, the number of over 65-year-olds, set to increase by 30 per cent between 2010 and 2050, with fewer people in employment, will create a massive dependency on social security and health care. Greece has the largest agricultural population in the EU, with a low capacity to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). The collapse of the Soviet Union and opening of markets in the Balkans means that many investors have relocated their activities in neighbouring countries.

Since 2004 there has been a drop in most manufacturing output (textiles, leather goods, paper, office equipment, furniture), steadily constant production of food, beverages, oil, with the only growth in tobacco, chemicals and plastic goods. Therefore, long-term stagnation in manufacturing has led the state to adopt ‘rescue’ interventions or public loans. Shipping and tourism contributes 17 per cent to gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 18 per cent of the working population. The uneven rural/urban divide is particularly acute as some areas, notably the islands and the farming communities, benefited more from Euro-funds for tourism or agridevelopment than others. Athens, in particular has had massive infrastructure developed.”

(Liddle, Joyce. “Regeneration and Economic Development in Greece:
De-industrialisation and Uneven Development “p.340; Local Government Studies; Vol. 35, No. 3, 335–354, June 2009)

Nonetheless, the weight of the working class had risen between 1991 and 2011, as had a class polarisation:

“Based on the Greek Statistic Service data for the fourth trimester of 2011 in comparison to those of 1991 consists in
1. an increase of the bourgeois class (3.4% from 1.4%) and of the rich rural strata (0.6% from 0.3%),
2. a huge decline of the traditional petit-bourgeois class (15.2% from 13.2%), and of the middle rural strata (2.2% from 3%),
3. a small increase of the new petit-bourgeois class (15.2% from 13.2%), due to the increasing demand of their abilities for the achievement of capital profitability, in parallel to an effort of their submission to the most direct capital exploitation and domination,
4. An important increase of the working class (62.2% from 47.5%), and
an important decrease of the poor rural strata (6% from 47.5%).
*In any case, what is clear is the tendency of intensification of class polarisation, which leads to the adoption of a social structure akin to that of other European countries (small number of farmers and of the traditional petit-bourgeois class, stable presence of the new petit-bourgeois class as the executive organizer of the productive process, broader bourgeoisie and heterogeneous uneven but
numerous working class”.

(Eirini Gaitanou. An examination of class structure in Greece, its tendencies of transformation amid the crisis, and its impacts on the organisational forms and structures of the social movement. At:

Under these enormous burdens, the now sizeable working classes of Greece mounted serious struggles to resist “austerity.” The ruling classes struggled to implement their commitments to the EU and the IMF. Consequently a series of short lived coalition governments took power.

“Following the May 2012 legislative election where the New Democracy party became the largest party in the Hellenic Parliament, Samaras, leader of ND, was asked by Greek President Karolos Papoulias to try to form a government. However, after a day of hard negotiations with the other parties in Parliament, Samaras officially announced he was giving up the mandate to form a government. The task passed to Alexis Tsipras, leader of the SYRIZA (the second largest party) who was also unable to form a government. After PASOK also failed to negotiate a successful agreement to form a government, emergency talks with the President ended with a new election being called while Panagiotis Pikrammenos was appointed as Prime Minister in a caretaker government.
Voters once again took to the polls in the widely-watched June 2012 election. New Democracy came out on top in a stronger position with 129 seats, compared to 108 in the May election. On 20 June 2012, Samaras successfully formed a coalition with PASOK (now lead by former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos) and DIMAR. The new government would have a majority of 58, with SYRIZA, Independent Greeks (ANEL), Golden Dawn (XA) and the Communist Party (KKE) comprising the opposition. PASOK and DIMAR chose to take a limited role in Samaras’ Cabinet, being represented by party officials and independent technocrats instead of MPs.”


We discuss these parties below. The coalition government led by Samaras, proved to be another short lived and contentious government, as it toed the line of Troika conditions. As such it was unable to disguise its nature from the increasingly militant and impoverished working class of Greece.

By the time of the January 2015 elections, the situation had become even more parlous for Greece’s working people:

“Greece saw official unemployment rising up to 27% – and youth unemployment up to 50% – suffered a cumulative contraction of almost 25%, saw a massive reduction in wages and pensions, and witnessed the passage of massive legislation oriented towards privatizations, labor market liberalization, and neoliberal university reform.”

(Panagiotis Sotiris;

A more credible “left” bulwark against the masses was necessary for the Greek ruling class. This coincided with a reformation of the Greek left. At this point we must discuss Syriza in more detail.

As seen, PASOK had fallen into rank opportunism and open betrayal of the working class. After ensuing scandals of corruption implicated the leader, Andreas Papandreou, its appeal to the workers and poor of Greece was falling fast:

“The socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and his key associates were under accusation of scandal, which involved party funding from illicit sources and revealed the extensive clientelistic linkages between business interests and politics which had been built up under PASOK’s eight-year rule.”

(Tsakatika, Myrto and Eleftheriou, Costas: “The Radical Left’s Turn towards Civil Society in Greece: One Strategy, Two Paths”; South European Society and Politics, 2013; p.3;

The space on the left had opened up again. Who was there to fill it?
We reprise the main outlines of events, focusing on analyses by Syriza, the revisionist KKE, and the pro-Hoxha Anasintaxi.

After the destruction of many of its cadre after the Battle of Athens in 1949, the KKE slowly reformed, after having adopted some mistaken sectarian paths during the Second World War. The KKE went through several splits, summarized below:

“There have been a series of splits throughout the party’s history, the earliest one being the Trotskyist Organisation of Internationalist Communists of Greece.
In 1956, after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR….
a faction created the Group of Marxist-Leninists of Greece (OMLE), which split from party in 1964, becoming the Organisation of Marxists-Leninists of Greece. In 1968, amidst the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, a relatively big group split from KKE, forming KKE Interior, a Greek Nationalist Communist Party claiming to be directed from within Greece rather than from the Soviet Union.
In 1988 KKE and Greek Left (the former KKE Interior), along with other left parties and organisations, formed the Coalition of the Left and Progress.
Also in 1988, the vast majority of members and officials from Communist Youth of Greece (KNE), the KKE’s youth wing, split to form the New Left Current (NAR), drawing mainly youth in major cities, especially in Thessaloniki.
In the early 2000s, a small group of major party officials such as Mitsos Kostopoulos left the party and formed the Movement for the United in Action Left (KEDA), which in the 2007 legislative election participated in the Coalition of the Radical Left, which was to win the 2015 national elections with a plurality.”

( and also see Tsakatika, Myrto and Eleftheriou, Costas: “The Radical Left’s Turn towards Civil Society in Greece: One Strategy, Two Paths”; South European Society and Politics, 2013; p.3;

The Marxist Leninist party supporting Hoxha in Greece is ‘Αναρτήθηκε από’ or ‘Anasintaxi Organization’ (reorganization). They are also known as “The Movement for the Reorganization of the Communist Party of Greece 1918–55” – or KKE 1918-55. They characterize the KKE disintegration post-war as follows:

“The old revolutionary KKE, under the leadership of the then General Sceretary Nikos Zachariadis, was the only communist party from a capitalist not to have accepted Krushchevian revisionism. For this reason, it was eliminated by the brutal intervention of the soviet Krushchevian revisionists in 1955-1956 and replaced by the Greek Krushchevian revisionist party (“K”KE), a bourgeois, party of social-democratic type. More than 90% of the party members led by Nikos Zachariadis opposed and fiercely resisted Krushchevian revisionism and many tens of cadres were sent to exile in Siberia including Nikos Zachariadis himself who has murdered by the social-fascist clique of Brezhnev (CPSU) – Florakis (“K”KE) in August of 1973, in Sorgut, Siberia after of 17 years of exile. In 1968, “K”KE was split into two parties: the euro-communist part known as “K”KE (interior) and the Krushchevian-Brezhnevite part known as “K”KE. SYRIZA originates from the first part and, consequently, is a social-democratic and reformist party guided by a right opportunist general line and characterized by petty bourgeois class features”

Αναρτήθηκε από Anasintaxi Organization ‘Some questions and answers about the current situation in Greece’; Article to be published in “Unity & Struggle” (Extended version of an interview given to the comrades of Iran); march 30; 2015; at

The revisionist KKE’s attitude to the European Union is characterised as follows:

“It is important to clarify that, despite its verbal attacks against EU and the Eurozone, “K”KE does not put forward (not even for the sake of demagogy) the question of Greece’s immediate exit neither from the EU nor the Eurozone. In relation to Euro, the leadership of “K”KE has stated: “A solution outside the euro and return to the drachma in the present circumstances would be catastrophic” (30/5/2011), i.e. a position that is similar to the one expressed by the president of the Union of Greek Industrialists (20/3/2012)…: “Europe or chaos” This is also evident in the party’s program that was approved by its last congress). Since some time now, “K”KE has expressed the view that “the term “national dependence” is not applicable in contemporary conditions” (1/2/2005). After the 19th Congress, it has openly adopted Trotskyite positions that mention “imperialist Greece”, “imperialist Second World War” etc and are evident in the “Program” approved in the last party Congress: “the capitalism in Greece is in the imperialist stage of development” (“K”KE Program, p. 12, Athens 2013). Concerning the character of the Second World War it is claimed that: “the problem was not only with KKE but the overall strategy of the international communist movement before and during the Second World War. In 1941, another negative point was added when the correct assessment of the war as imperialist – with respect to both sides of capitalist states – was replaced by the position that it was only anti-fascist” (“Rizospastis,” 21/12/2104)”

Αναρτήθηκε από Anasintaxi OrganizationSome questions and answers about the current situation in Greece’; Article to be published in “Unity & Struggle” (Extended version of an interview given to the comrades of Iran); march 30; 2015; at

As PASOK had been fully exposed, a general disillusion enabled the formation of Synaspismo (Coalition of the Left and Progress) in 1991:

“Synaspismos emerged initially as an electoral coalition at the late 1980s, with the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Greek Left, one of the successors of the eurocommunist KKE Interior, as its largest constituents. The Party of Democratic Socialism, a splinter from the Union of the Democratic Centre which occupied a similar position to PASOK, was the largest non-Communist member party.”


The many parties of the left are displayed in the diagram below, which helps to show the umbrella nature of the Syriza United front. Beneath the figure itself (at the site “Lenin’s Tomb”) is a potted history of these factions. (Seymour, R. ‘Map of the Greek Radical Left’ February 9, 2015; However the figure does not explain include the currents of the Marxist-Leninist left. The OMLE was a pro-Maoist party. We further discuss at points, the positions of Αναρτήθηκε από Anasintaxi Organization, the pro-Hoxha Marxist-Leninists. Here we continue to trace the currents of Syriza.

The revisionist KKE joined Synaspismo, which contested three national elections (June 1989, November 1989, 1990). For a period they joined in Government alliances with mainstream centre-right New Democracy, ND under the premiership of Tzannis Tzannetakis. This collaboration was not viewed kindly by the increasingly politicised Greek working class and petit-bourgeois:

“The government’s official purpose was to send the former prime minister to trial and impose a clean-up of the corrupt clientelistic politics of the time… (But) leftist voters did not appreciate the decision of the left parties’ leaderships to engage in government cooperation with the centre-right; moreover, the stated aim of the Tzannetakis government was not achieved: after a long judicial process there was ultimately very little ‘cleaning up’.. the KKE pulled out of the coalition and lost 40 per cent of its cadres after a major party split in the party’s 13th Congress (February 1991). The former coalition was re-established as a unified party… In the first part of the 1990s, the Greek left as a whole was thus delegitimised in the eyes of its traditional electorate, bruised by participation in government with the centre-right and experienced internal strife and extensive demobilisation of party members, while the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) added an identity crisis to its woes”. (Tsakatika, and Eleftheriou, Ibid; 2013).


The United Front of Synapsimos – or Syn as it is known – tried to appeal to a broad front, and one that explicitly crossed class lines:

“SYN.. in 2001… established a political and electoral alliance with a host of smaller parties, groups and networks of the extra-parliamentary left in the context of the Synaspismo Pizospastikh Aristra (Coalition of the Radical Left [SYRIZA])… SYN was and remained (until 2012) the largest party in the SYRIZA coalition, representing at least 80 per cent of its cadres, activists and voters. SYRIZA was one of the core choices of the party’s new leadership after 2000.. ”
(Tsakatika, and Eleftheriou, Ibid; 2013).

“SYN.. defined itself as a pluralist left party of democratic socialism, neither orthodox communist nor social democratic, supporting a mixed economy and placing a fresh emphasis on ‘new issues’, particularly feminism, democratic rights and the environment. SYN’s original core consisted of cadres whose political origins lay in the party of the Ellhnikh Aristra ́ (Greek Left [EAR]) founded in 1987 (in turn established after the KKE-es leadership’s decision to dissolve the party and contribute to the foundation of a non-communist left party) and a large group of dissidents who broke ranks with the KKE in 1991. It also incorporated a number of individuals and small groups coming from left social democracy, ecologism and the extra-parliamentary left, as well as independents.

The party’s founding document appealed to ‘the men and women of work and culture, the young and the excluded’. This was explicitly not a class appeal, since SYN effectively presented itself as a catch-all party throughout the 1990s, one that aimed to be present in ‘every nook and cranny of Greek society’. There was also an explicit trans-class appeal to groups affected by gender inequality and environmental degradation. In practice, most of its vote share, membership and cadres have mainly been from among the ranks of highly educated employees in the public sector, professionals and small employers. However, as a result of changes in internal factional dynamics, with the radical, protest-oriented

moderate (and sympathetic to government cooperation with PASOK) Anan vtikh ryga (Renewal Wing) in the party leadership after 2000, SYN shifted to a broadly defined class appeal aimed at targeting, primarily, younger cohorts and, secondarily, precariously employed workers in the services sector, social categories that were politically under-represented”
(Tsakatika, and Eleftheriou, Ibid; 2013).

The later creation of Syriza, was also a United Front. The word commonly means “coalition of the radical left”; or originally “coming from the roots” (Wikipedia):

“The Coalition of the Radical Left (Greek: Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás), mostly known by its acronym, Syriza which signifies a Greek adjective meaning “from the roots”, is a left-wing political party in Greece, originally founded in 2004 as a coalition of left-wing and radical left parties. It is the largest party in the Hellenic Parliament…
The coalition originally comprised a broad array of groups (thirteen in total) and independent politicians, including social democrats, democratic socialists, left-wing patriots, feminists and green leftist groups, as well as Maoist, Trotskyist, Eurocommunist but also Eurosceptic components. Additionally, despite its secular ideology, many members are Christians who, like their atheistic fellow members, are opposed to the privileges of the state-sponsored Orthodox Church of Greece. From 2013 the coalition became a unitary party, although it retained its name with the addition of “United Social Front.”

Syriza between 2004-8 was led by Alekos Alavanos. They created a vigorous youth movement in the driving force of the Ellhniko ́ Koinvniko ́ Foroym (Greek Social Forum [EKF]) which later organised the 4th European Social Forum (ESF) that took place in Athens in 2006. The Syriza United Front did undergo some splinters:

“In March 2009, some 10 small groups and parties formed another coalition, Antarsya (literally, the Anti-Capitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow). Composed primarily of university student activists in various communist organizations of orthodox Marxist, Trotskyist and Maoist backgrounds, as well of members of the relatively new rank-and-file unions outside the established bureaucracies of the official union structure of the country, it proved effective for activism in a broad range of mobilizations, but it never managed to achieve anything more than 1.8 per cent in the regional or general elections.

(Spourdalakis, Michalis; “Left strategy in the Greek cauldron: explaining syriza’s success. Socialist Register 2013; p. 105)

By 2010, Alex Tspiras was leading the Syriza party, after a section (The Renewal Wing’) split to form DIMAR (‘Renewal Wing’):

“The exit of the ‘Renewal Wing’ faction from SYN (which evolved into DIMAR) in the summer of 2010 curtailed political disagreement and factional infighting within SYN and resulted in the effective dominance of Alexis Tsipras’s leadership in both SYN and SYRIZA.”
(Tsakatika, and Eleftheriou, Ibid; 2013).

“The “social democratic” wing of Synaspismos definitely lost control of the party in 2006 when Alekos Alavanos was elected its president. This right wing, led by Fotis Kouvelis, almost exclusively originating in the Eurocommunist right group coming from EAR, ultimately left Synaspismos and set up another party called Democratic Left (Dimar): a formation that claims to be a sort of halfway house between Pasok and the radical left.”

(Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen: Greece: Phase One

But the revisionist KKE left Syn early on, and adopted a sectarian approach. Later on the KKE did not join the Greek Social Forum (EKF). Much of the KKE’s broad front work was instead performed through a Trade Union organisation – “Panrgatiko Agvnistiko Mtvpo (All Workers’ Militant Front, PAME) formed in the late 1990s. Insisting on this tactic, the KKE lost ground amongst much of the youth. For example those joining the ‘Indignants’ movement – who rejected all parties.

“Also indicative of the qualitative new dimension of the Greek people’s resistance were the now famous mobilizations of the ‘aganaktismeni’, i.e. the ‘frustrated or indignant in the squares’. These movements, which appeared in almost every major city nationwide, used new means of political mobilization (including the internet) and developed a political language which was clearly hostile to the previously existing patronizing practices of the party system. In fact this hostility was frequently displayed by spontaneous verbal and even physical attacks on politicians of the governmental parties, which at times extended to representatives of the established trade unions and the KKE.”

(Spourdalakis, Michalis;“Left strategy in the Greek cauldron: explaining syriza’s success. Socialist Register 2013; p. 108)

Stathis Kouvelakis, is a member of the central committee of Syriza and a leading member of its Left Platform. Kouvelakis pointed to the post-1968 divisions of the Greek left as “two poles.” Supposedly bridged by Syriza: the first bridge to factions of the KKE:

“Since 1968, the radical Left had been divided into two poles. The first was the Greek Communist Party (KKE), which (after splits)… (had) a rightist wing (that) constituted the Greek Left (EAR) and joined Synaspismos from the outset, and the leftist one reforming as the AKOA. The KKE that remained after these two splits was peculiarly traditionalist… It managed to win a relatively significant activist base among working-class and popular layers, as well as among the youth, particularly in the universities.” (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen: Greece: Phase One

Kouvelakis describes Synaspsimos, as a second ‘pole’, seeding the later Syriza:

“The other pole, Synaspismos, opened out in 2004 with the creation of Syriza, which itself came from the joining together of the two previous splits from the KKE. Synaspismos has changed considerably over time. At the beginning of the 1990s, it was the kind of party that could vote for the Maastricht Treaty, and it was mainly of a moderate left coloration.” (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen; Ibid).

Actually the Marxist-Leninist pro-Hoxha party – (Αναρτήθηκε από Anasintaxi Organization) – is more emphatic. It places Syriza as directly deriving from the revisionist KKE, and as having taken over the KKE “social-democratic and reformist” character. Although Syriza is “socially” anti-fascist, it has “contradictions” – that impede it:

“In 1968, “K”KE was split into two parties: the euro-communist part known as “K”KE (interior) and the Krushchevian-Brezhnevite part known as “K”KE. Syriza originates from the first part and, consequently, is a social-democratic and reformist party guided by a right opportunist general line and characterized by petty bourgeois class features.

Syriza has pledged to implement a kind of neo-Keynesian economic program with the aim, at best, of relieving the burden of the consequences coming from the economic crisis of over-production and extreme neo-liberal economic policy without, however, touching the capitalist system and the imperialist dependence of Greece. Nevertheless, the implementation of this program has met negative reactions from the representatives of the imperialist organizations Commission – ECB – IMF that continue to interfere in the internal affairs of the country provocatively and without any pretext. This attitude amounts to the annulment of the recent (editor: January 2105) elections in our country.

In the sphere of social questions, Syriza is an anti-fascist party suffering from inconsistencies and contradictions as it is evident from the fact that it formed an alliance with the bourgeois nationalist party of ANEL and the nomination of Prokopis Pavlopoulos for President of the Republic, a right-wing politician from Nea Demokratia who was responsible, as Minister of Public Order in the Karamanlis government, for the bloody police violence unleashed on the country’s school youth after the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos in December of 2008.”

(Αναρτήθηκε από Anasintaxi OrganizationSome questions and answers about the current situation in Greece’; Article to be published in “Unity & Struggle” (Extended version of an interview given to the comrades of Iran); march 30; 2015. At

Syriza was always an electoral alliance:

“Syriza was set up by several different organizations in 2004, as an electoral alliance. Its biggest component was Alexis Tsipras’s party Synaspismos — initially the Coalition of the Left and Progress, and eventually renamed the Coalition of the Left and of the Movements …. It emerged from a series of splits in the Communist movement. Some (smaller parties also – Editor) came out of the old Greek far left. In particular, the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE), one of the country’s main Maoist groups. This organization had three members of parliament (MPs) elected in May 2012. That’s also true of the Internationalist Workers’ Left (DEA), which is from a Trotskyist tradition, as well as other groups mostly of a Communist background. For example, the Renewing Communist Ecological Left (AKOA), which came out of the old Communist Party (Interior).” (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen; Ibid).

The United Front of Syriza, had almost electoral immediate success:

“It managed to get into parliament, overcoming the 3 percent minimum threshold.” (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen; Ibid).

Syriza went on to replace PASOK as increasingly, Syriza candidates won in the ballot boxes. By this stage a number of other new parties had emerged, including a fascist party – Golden Dawn:

“After three years of political instability, the system collapsed in the dual elections of May and June 2012. New Democracy’s strength was halved and PASOK’s vote share diminished by 75 per cent. Three new political actors emerged, each winning around seven per cent of the vote, namely the party of the Dhmokratikh Aristra (Democratic Left, DIMAR), a recent split from SYN, Anya rthtoi Ellhn(Independent Greeks), a recent split from ND, and the extreme-right Xrysh Aygh (Golden Dawn). (Tsakatika, and Eleftheriou, Ibid; 2013).

A short lived coalition government in 2012 was formed by ND, PASOK and DIMAR in June 2012

What does Syriza represent? According to its own leaders it is an “anti-capitalist coalition” – as “class-struggle parties – but both emphasising “electoral alliances”:

“Syriza is an anti-capitalist coalition that addresses the question of power by emphasizing the dialectic of electoral alliances and success at the ballot box with struggle and mobilizations from below. That is, Syriza and Synaspismos see themselves as class-struggle parties, as formations that represent specific class interests.” (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen; Ibid).

In another description, it is a “hybrid party”:

“That is, it is a political front, and even within Syriza there is a practical approach allowing the coexistence of different political cultures. I would say that Syriza is a hybrid party, a synthesis party, with one foot in the tradition of the Greek Communist movement and its other foot in the novel forms of radicalism that have emerged in this new period.” (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen; Ibid).

In 2012 there were about 16,000 members in Synaspismos, and the Maoist KOE had about 1-1500 members. But in the ensuring period of a year, Syriza grew rapidly further – to 35,000–36,000. By May 2012, it became the second party in Greece with 16.7 percent of the vote, beating Pasok. It relied largely on a trade union base, and pulled its voters away from the KKE. There were 3 reasons why strategists feel they did so well in the 2012 elections:

“First, The violence of the social and economic crisis in Greece and the way it developed from 2010 onward, with the austere-ian purge .. inflicted under the infamous memorandums of understanding (the agreements the Greek government signed with the troika in order to secure the country’s ability to pay off its debts). The second factor resides in the fact that Greece — and now also Spain — are the only countries where this social and economic crisis has transformed into a political crisis. .. The third factor is popular mobilization.… The real breakthrough came when Tsipras focused his discourse on the theme of constituting an “anti-austerity government of the Left” now, which he presented as an alliance proposal reaching out to the KKE, the far left, the parliamentary left, and the small dissident elements of Pasok. “ (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen; Ibid).

Within the United Front of Syriza itself, there are two main wings (See Diagram above): The Left Platform and the majority. The Left Platform is also a United Front – of the “Left Current” mainly influenced by the KKE and a Trotskyist component:

“The Left Platform has two components, the Left Current, which is a kind of traditional communist current — essentially constituted by trade unionists and controlling most of the trade union sector of Syriza. These people in their vast majority come from the KKE, so they are those who broke with the KKE in the last split of the party in 1991. And then there is the Trotskyist component (DEA and KOKKOINO, recently fused).” (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen; Ibid).

In turn, this Left wing has formed a sub-group – the “Platform of the 53”:

“The left of the majority has coalesced around the “Platform of the Fifty-Three,” signed by fifty-three members of the central committee and some MPs in June 2014, immediately after the European elections. They strongly criticized Tsipras’s attempts to attract establishment politicians, and for leading a campaign that didn’t give a big enough role to social mobilizations and movements”. (Stathis Kouvelakis interview with Sebastien Budgen; Ibid).

From quite early on, Tsipras had been criticised from his Left – on charges along the lines of opportunism. What Programme did Syriza put forth?

9. What was the elected programme of Syriza?

The Thessalonika Conference is accepted as being the progaramme of the United Front of Syriza. (Syriza – The Thessalonika Programme” at—THE-THESSALONIKI-PROGRAMME.html#.VQSgEChOTdl

In broadest terms the Programme calls for cessation of “the Nazi Occupation forced loan from the Bank of Greece” – and lifting of the Greek Public Debt: A slogan “No sacrifice of the Euro” was often heard:

  • “Write-off the greater part of public debt’s nominal value so that it becomes sustainable in the context of a «European Debt Conference». It happened for Germany in 1953. It can also happen for the South of Europe and Greece.
  • Include a «growth clause» in the repayment of the remaining part so that it is growth-financed and not budget-financed.
  • Include a significant grace period («moratorium») in debt servicing to save funds for growth.
  • Exclude public investment from the restrictions of the Stability and Growth Pact.
  • A «European New Deal» of public investment financed by the European Investment Bank.
  • Quantitative easing by the European Central Bank with direct purchases of sovereign bonds.
  • Finally, we declare once again that the issue of the Nazi Occupation forced loan from the Bank of Greece is open for us. Our partners know it. It will become the country’s official position from our first days in power.
    On the basis of this plan, we will fight and secure a socially viable solution to Greece’s debt problem so that our country is able to pay off the remaining debt from the creation of new wealth and not from primary surpluses, which deprive society of income.
    With that plan, we will lead with security the country to recovery and productive reconstruction by:
  • Immediately increasing public investment by at least €4 billion.
  • Gradually reversing all the Memorandum injustices.
  • Gradually restoring salaries and pensions so as to increase consumption and demand.
  • Providing small and medium-sized enterprises with incentives for employment, and subsidizing the energy cost of industry in exchange for an employment and environmental clause.
  • Investing in knowledge, research, and new technology in order to have young scientists, who have been massively emigrating over the last years, back home.
  • Rebuilding the welfare state, restoring the rule of law and creating a meritocratic state.
    We are ready to negotiate and we are working towards building the broadest possible alliances in Europe.”

In this document it further says that “within our first days in power,” after “negotiations end” with the Troika (And on its Memorandum)– they will begin enacting the following “National Reconstruction Plan” What does this embody? There are Four Pillars to this, which we recap briefly.

The 1st Pillar is “Confronting the humanitarian crisis at an estimated Total estimated cost of €1,882 billion

“Our program…. amounts to a comprehensive grid of emergency interventions, so as to raise a shield of protection for the most vulnerable social strata. Free electricity (Total cost: €59,4 million).

  • Programme of meal subsidies to 300.000 families without income. Total cost: €756 million.
  • Programme of housing guarantee. The target is the provision of initially 30.000 apartments (30, 50, and 70 m²), by subsidizing rent at €3 per m². Total cost: €54 million.
  • Restitution of the Christmas bonus, as 13th pension, to 1.262.920 pensioners with a pension up to €700. Total cost: €543,06 million.
  • Free medical and pharmaceutical care for the uninsured unemployed. Total cost: €350 million.
  • Special public transport card for the long-term unemployed and those who are under the poverty line. Total cost: €120 million.
  • Repeal of the leveling of the special consumption tax on heating and automotive diesel. Bringing the starting price of heating fuel for households back to €0,90 per lt, instead of the current €1,20 per lt. Benefit is expected.”

The 2nd Pillar is “Restarting the economy and promoting tax justice” Total estimated cost: €6,5 billion; Total estimated benefit: €3,0 billion

“This second pillar is centered on measures to restart the economy. Priority is given to alleviating tax suppression on the real economy, relieving citizens of financial burdens, injecting liquidity and enhancing demand.

Excessive taxation on the middle class as well as on those who do not tax-evade has entrapped a great part of citizens in a situation which directly threatens their employment status, their private property, no matter how small, and even their physical existence, as proved by the unprecedented number in suicides.

  • Settlement of financial obligations to the state and social security funds in 84 installments. Estimated benefit: €3 billion

The revenue which we expect to collect on an annual basis (between 5% and 15% of the total owed) will be facilitated by the following measures:

  • The immediate cease of prosecution as well as of confiscation of bank accounts, primary residence, salaries, etc, and the issuance of tax clearance certificate to all those included in the settlement process.
  • A twelve-month suspension of prosecution and enforcement measures against debtors with an established zero income, included in the settlement process.
  • Repeal of the anti-constitutional treatment of outstanding financial obligations to the state as offence in the act (in flagrante delicto).
  • Abolition of the mandatory 50% down payment of the outstanding debt as a prerequisite to seek a court hearing. The down payment will be decided by a judge. It will be around 10%-20%, according to the financial circumstances of the debtor.
  • Immediate abolition of the current unified property tax (ENFIA). Introduction of a tax on large property. Immediate downward adjustment of property zone rates per m². Estimated cost: €2 billion.

That tax will be progressive with a high tax-free threshold. With the exception of luxurious homes, it will not apply on primary residence. In addition, it will not concern small and medium property.

  • Restitution of the €12000 annual income tax threshold. Increase in the number of tax brackets to ensure progressive taxation. Estimated cost: €1.5 billion.
  • Personal debt relief by restructuring non-performing loans («red loans») by individuals and enterprises.

This new relief legislation will include: the case-by-case partial write-off of debt incurred by people who now are under the poverty line, as well as the general principle of readjusting outstanding debt so that its total servicing to banks, the state, and the social security funds does not exceed ⅓ of a debtor’s income.

  • Establishment of a public development bank as well as of special-purpose banks: Starting capital at €1 billion.
  • Restoration of the minimum wage to €751. Zero cost.

The 3rd Pillar is “Regaining employment” Estimated cost: €3 billion

A net increase in jobs by 300,000 in all sectors of the economy – private, public, social – is expected to be the effect of our two-year plan to regain employment. …Restitution of the institutional framework to protect employment rights that was demolished by the Memoranda governments…. Restitution of the so-called «after-effect» of collective agreements; of the collective agreements themselves as well as of arbitration….. Abolition of all regulations allowing for massive and unjustifiable layoffs as well as for renting employees.

Zero cost: Employment programme for 300000 new jobs. Estimated first-year cost: €3 billion

The 4th Pillar is: “Transforming the political system to deepen democracy”

Total estimated cost: €0

From the first year of SYRIZA government, we set in motion the process for the institutional and democratic reconstruction of the state. We empower the institutions of representative democracy and we introduce new institutions of direct democracy.

Regional organization of the state. Enhancement of transparency, of the economic autonomy and the effective operation of municipalities and regions. We empower the institutions of direct democracy and introduce new ones.

Empowerment of citizens’ democratic participation. Introduction of new institutions, such as people’s legislative initiative, people’s veto and people’s initiative to call a referendum.

Empowerment of the Parliament, curtailment of parliamentary immunity, and repeal of the peculiar legal regime of MPs’ non-prosecution.

Regulation of the radio/television landscape by observing all legal preconditions and adhering to strict financial, tax, and social-security criteria. Re-establishment of ERT (Public Radio and Television) on a zero basis.”

(Thessalalonkia Programme; Ibid)

This is viewed by significant leaders of the Syriza as a “transitional programme,” as explained in an interview with Efklidis Tsakalotos, a member of Parliament with SYRIZA and responsible for the economic policy of Syriza. (An Interview With Syriza’s Efklidis Tsakalotos Syriza’s Moment; by E. AHMET TONAK” JANUARY 23-25, 2015; :

“Syriza’s programme is a transitional one. It wants to start the process of not only reversing the policies of austerity but also dismantling some of the central pillars of the neo-liberal order. As with all transitional programmes the goal is to open up fissures for more radical polices. Whether we in Europe can achieve this depends on the extent that social movements are inspired to make use of the opportunities that arise to broaden the agenda in favour of a more participatory, institutionally-diverse, and socially just economy. Left-wing governments can do only so much. Social transformations, especially in the modern era, need the active engagement of millions. Parties and governments of the Left must see their role as catalysts of these wider developments. What is certain is that we are living in interesting times!”

(Interview with Tsakalotos Ibid).

In truth, the programme that was put forward by Syriza entirely stays within the confines of the EU. Instead of breaking that mould, it attempts to lay a negotiating position to lessen the burdens that are being demanded of the Greek peoples. It is correct that Syriza has never claimed to be a Leninist type party. Nonetheless, this perspective put above, is the antithesis of Leninism. As explained by Lenin in ‘State and Revolution” “trasnational forms” are needed. Both Marx and Lenin certainly agreed that a “special stage” – or a stage of transition from capitalism to communism was needed:

“The first fact that has been established most accurately by the whole theory of development, by science as a whole–a fact that was ignored by the utopians, and is ignored by the present-day opportunists, who are afraid of the socialist revolution–is that, historically, there must undoubtedly be a special stage, or a special phase, of transition from capitalism to communism.”

However, crucially, this transition needed to be a revolutionary transition:

“Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Previously the question was put as follows: to achieve its emancipation, the proletariat must overthrow the bourgeoisie, win political power and establish its revolutionary dictatorship.

Now the question is put somewhat differently: the transition from capitalist society–which is developing towards communism–to communist society is impossible without a “political transition period”, and the state in this period can only be the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. What, then, is the relation of this dictatorship to democracy? We have seen that the Communist Manifesto simply places side by side the two concepts: “to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class” and “to win the battle of democracy”. On the basis of all that has been said above, it is possible to determine more precisely how democracy changes in the transition from capitalism to communism. In capitalist society, providing it develops under the most favourable conditions, we have a more or less complete democracy in the democratic republic. But this democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation, and consequently always remains, in effect, a democracy for the minority, only for the propertied classes, only for the rich. Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners. Owing to the conditions of capitalist exploitation, the modern wage slaves are so crushed by want and poverty that “they cannot be bothered with democracy,” “cannot be bothered with politics”; in the ordinary, peaceful course of events, the majority of the population is debarred from participation in public and political life.”

Lenin State & Revolution: Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871. Marx’s Analysis (

Lenin points out that there is a “hemming in by narrow limits” of democracy. How much “narrower” is it when not only the single state “hems it in” – but the imperialists of the EU also “hem it in?” The next period, following the January elections of 2015, would answer this question.

10. Elections of 2015 and Negotiations with the Troika

The short-lived governments could not maintain credibility, as they were always accomodating to the new Troika demands. The mass movement shifted to the left, as shown by the huge demonstrations in the central Square. The elections of January 25 2015, sealed the rise to power of Syriza:

“After the Hellenic Parliament failed to elect a new President of State by 29 December 2014, the parliament was dissolved and a snap 2015 legislative election was scheduled for 25 January 2015. Syriza had a lead in opinion polls, but its anti-austerity position worried investors and eurozone supporters. The party’s chief economic advisor, John Milios, has downplayed fears that Greece under a Syriza government would exit the eurozone, while shadow development minister George Stathakis disclosed the party’s intention to crack down on Greek oligarchs if it wins the election. In the election, Syriza defeated the incumbent New Democracy and went on to become the largest party in the Hellenic Parliament, receiving 36.3% of the vote and 149 out of 300 seats.”

“January 25th marks a historic turning point in recent Greek history. After five years of devastating austerity, a social crisis without precedent in Europe, and a series of struggles that at some points, especially in 2010-2012, took an almost insurrectionary form, there has been a major political break. The parties that were responsible for putting Greek society under the disciplinary supervision of the so-called Troika (EU-ECB-IMF) suffered a humiliating defeat. PASOK, which in 2009 won almost 44% of the vote, now received only 4.68%; and the splinter party of Giorgos Papandreou, the PASOK Prime Minister who initiated the austerity programs, got 2.46%. New Democracy came in at 27.81%, almost 9% below SYRIZA. The electoral rise of the fascists of Golden Dawn has been halted, although they still maintain a worrying 6% of the vote. Another pro-austerity party, the RIVER, representing the neoliberal agenda (although nominally coming from the center-left) took only 6.05%, despite intensive media hype.”

(Panagiotis Sotiris;

Rapidly, by 26 January 2015, Tsipras and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos agreed on a coalition government between Syriza and ANEL. Tsipras would be the Prime Minister of Greece, with the academic economist Yanis Varoufakis as his Minister of Finance.

Yet, in a graphic display of its intended response to the rebuke that the Troika and especially the German imperialists had received, the official line was hard:

“German government official Hans-Peter Friedrich however said: “The Greeks have the right to vote for whom they want. We have the right to no longer finance Greek debt.”

The Greek pro-Hoxha Marxist-Leninist view is that the Greek people took a stand against both the Troika and the Greek capitalists:

“By voting for SYRIZA, the majority of the Greek people rejected and condemned the cruel economic measures that were imposed, the neoliberal economic policy, in general, and the great-bourgeois parties of ND and PASOK that implemented these measures with the outmost servility. The victory of SYRIZA is also explained by the people’s resentment towards the fascist re-modeling of social life promoted by the government of the fascist scoundrel Samaras”. (January 24, 2015; “BOYCOTT the elections–The elections do not solve the problem of imperialist DEPENDANCE (economic-political-military, NATO bases etc.), nor repel-cancel ongoing EU politics against the people

However Anasintaxi also had called for abstention from the elections of 2015, arguing that:

“In contrary ALL the bourgeois parties are in favor of Greece’s STAY in imperialist European Union, and in EURO-EMU and propagate consciously, serve the interests of the EU imperialists with misleading MYTH-fantasies about “equal participation” (!) of the country in the “pit of lions” of the powerful European monopolies. At the same time they propagate that Greece leaving the Euro-EMU-EU will be a “major disaster” (!).

ALL the reformist social democratic parties (“K” KE-SYRIZA, etc.) and the extra-parliamentary organizations follow the same strategic choice of the EU monopolies and the local capital.

It is not only SYRIZA which supports the country STAY (in) EURO-EMU-EU, but also the “K” KE: “A solution outside the euro and return to the drachma in the present circumstances would be catastrophic” (A. Papariga, “Rizospastis” 31/5/2011, p.6) Moreover: the leaders of the “K” KE definitively renounced the anti-imperialist struggle for the overthrow of dependence”

(January 24, 2015; “BOYCOTT the elections–The elections do not solve the problem of imperialist DEPENDANCE (economic-political-military, NATO bases etc.), nor repel-cancel ongoing EU politics against the people

After the election, Anasintaxi warned that Syriza had entered into coalition with right-wing ANEL. However early on, the government had taken some progressive steps:

“During the first three weeks following the elections, the SYRIZA government has taken a series of actions in order to implement its program that has won the support of wide popular strata, an attitude that is unfortunately accompanied by certain illusions. At the same time, the government’s actions have met a very negative reception from Commission – ECB – IMF whose pressure and constant interference in the country’s internal affairs is condemned by the Greek people. We think that, up to a certain extent, SYRIZA’s victory creates favorable conditions for the strengthening of class struggles. Whether this possibility becomes a reality depends, of course on many factors the most important of which is the organization of the majority of the working masses in independent and united trade unions and the influence exerted on these and, the society in general, by the consistent left-wing, anti-imperialist and revolutionary communists.”

(Αναρτήθηκε από Anasintaxi Organization ‘Some questions and answers about the current situation in Greece’; Article to be published in “Unity & Struggle” (Extended version of an interview given to the comrades of Iran); march 30; 2015. At

At this early point, both Tsipras and Varoufakis were apparently determined to negotiate hard, with the threat to leave the EU if the Troika did not back down:

“Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has spelled out the negotiating strategy of the Syriza government with crystal clarity.
“Exit from the euro does not even enter into our plans, quite simply because the euro is fragile. It is like a house of cards. If you pull away the Greek card, they all come down,” he said.
“Do we really want Europe to break apart? Anybody who is tempted to think it possible to amputate Greece strategically from Europe should be careful. It is very dangerous. Who would be hit after us? Portugal? What would happen to Italy when it discovers that it is impossible to stay within the austerity straight-jacket?”
“There are Italian officials – I won’t say from which institution – who have approached me to say they support us, but they can’t say the truth because Italy is at risk of bankruptcy and they fear the consequence from Germany. A cloud of fear has been hanging over Europe over recent years. We are becoming worse than the Soviet Union,” he told the Italian TV station RAI.
This earned a stiff rebuke from the Italian finance minister, Pier Carlo Padoan. “These comments are out of place. Italy’s debt is solid and sustainable,” he said.
Yet the point remains. Deflationary conditions are causing interest costs to rise faster than nominal GDP in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, automatically pushing public debt ratios ever higher.
Berkeley economist Barry Eichengreen warns that Grexit would be “Lehman squared”, setting off a calamitous chain reaction with worldwide consequences. Syriza’s gamble is that the EU authorities know this, whatever officials may claim in public.
Premier Alexis Tsipras is pushing this to the wire. Rightly or wrongly, he calculates that Greece holds the trump card – the detonation of mutual assured destruction, to borrow from Cold War parlance – and that all the threats from EMU power centres are mere bluster.
His cool nerve has caught Brussels, Frankfurt, Berlin, and the markets off guard. They assumed that this 40-year neophyte would back away from exorbitant demands in his landmark policy speech to the Greek parliament on Sunday night. Instead they heard a declaration of war.
He vowed to implement every measure in Syriza’s pre-electoral Thessaloniki Programme “in their entirety” with no ifs and buts. This even includes a legal demand for €11bn of war reparations from Germany, a full 71 years after the last Wehrmacht soldier left Greek soil.
There is no possible extension of Greece’s bail-out programme with the EU-IMF Troika, for that would be an “extension of mistakes and disaster”, a perpetuation of the debt-deflation trap. “The People have abolished the Memorandum. We will not negotiate our sovereignty,” he said.
Macropolis said every item was in there: a pension rise for the poorest; no further rises in the retirement age; an increase in the minimum wage to €751 a month by 2016; a return to collective bargaining; an end to privatisation of utilities; cancellation of a new property tax (ENFIA); a rise in tax-free thresholds from €5,000 to €12,000; and a rehiring of 10,000 public workers fired “illegally.”

(Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. “Greece’s leaders stun Europe with escalating defiance”. ‘The Telegraph’; 09 Feb 2015;

However in a foretaste of the future intransigence of the German imperialists, led by Wolfang Schauble the German Finance Minister – Greece’s first counter-offer was rejected out of hand:

“Schauble continues to insist that Greece sticks to the bailout conditions agreed with previous governments under which financial support will be given only in exchange for substantial structural reforms.
The finance ministry’s position risks deepening splits within Europe over how to deal with Greece as an end of February deadline nears at which the previous bailout agreement with its creditors and the European Central Bank runs out, leaving Greece facing bankruptcy.
In contrast to Berlin, the EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed the Greek application, saying in his opinion it could pave the way for a “sensible compromise in the interest of financial stability in the Eurozone as a whole”.
But experts said Greece was merely playing for time, and that its application had indeed contained no new commitments. “The Greeks have simply tried to pass the buck back to the middle,” Matthias Kullas from the Centre for European Politics in Freiburg told The Guardian.
He stressed the German reaction was not a rejection over reaching a compromise with Greece, but did mean that expectations of an agreement on Friday when finance ministers from the eurogroup meet again, were now “slim”.
“If an agreement is reached, it will be at the last minute,” he said. “It’s in the interest of both sides to stick to their guns. The earlier one of them diverts from his course, the weaker his position becomes and the more elbow room he leaves for the other.”

(Kate Connolly. “Germany rejects Greek bailout plan – as it happened”. The Guardian 19 February 2015;

A furious cycle of media reports and counter reports paralleled a back and forth between the European Union and the Greek negotiating team of Tsipras and Varoufakis. In essence no counter-offer by the Greek team was deemed acceptable. It is true that the initial efforts of the Greek team to counter the demands were insubstantial. However even when substantial retreats had been offered, they were humiliatingly rejected. While the European team was overall untied, strains emerged. It was apparent that the Germans were the most stout in the rejections. However both the French and the Italians were wavering. Nonetheless even the IMF initially firmly supported the German position:

“Last week Greece received a four-month extension of its $277 billion bailout program. The parliaments of Finland, Estonia and, most importantly, Germany, as well as Greece’s other EU partners, approved the bailout program that was agreed to Feb. 20, provided that Greece submit a list of planned reforms. Greece submitted six pages of reforms last Monday, but not all of Greece’s creditors think they are sufficient.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), wrote a letter to Dutch Finance Minster Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also president of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, expressing her concern that Greece’s proposed reforms were not specific enough, nor did they contain sufficient assurances on their design and implementation. The letter is the most recent, and public, indication of the IMF’s hesitancy toward Greece and its bailout program.

(Maria Savel. “IMF Stands Firm, Forcing Greece and Syriza to Accept Hard Concessions” Politics Review, March 3, 2015,

By March, Tsipras was still assuming the EU would not want to have a member leave:

“SPIEGEL: Many experts now fear a “Graccident” — Greece’s accidental exit from the euro. If the ECB doesn’t agree to your T-Bills, that’s exactly what might happen.
Tspiras: I cannot imagine that. People won’t risk Europe’s disintegration over a T-Bill of almost €1.6 billion. There is a saying for this in Greece: A wet man does not fear the rain.”

(Der Spiegel Interview Conducted By Manfred Ertel, Katrin Kuntz and Mathieu von Rohr: Greek Prime Minister Tsipras: ‘We Don’t Want to Go on Borrowing Forever’; March 7 2015; at

As time went on, the Greek banks were forced to put restrictions on withdrawals. The EU allowed some further liquidity in Greece by allowing Greece to print more T-Bills, but purely for internal use. This was violated by Greece. More and more comments were heard that Greece might have to exit the EU – a so called Grexit or Greccident:

“The current money-go-round is unsustainable. Euro-region taxpayers fund their governments, which in turn bankroll the European Central Bank. Cash from the ECB’s Emergency Liquidity Scheme flows to the Greek banks; they buy treasury bills from their government, which uses the proceeds to … repay its International Monetary Fund debts! …
There’s blame on both sides for the current impasse. Euro-area leaders should be giving Greece breathing space to get its economic act together. But the Greek leadership has been cavalier in its treatment of its creditors. It’s been amateurish in expecting that a vague promise to collect more taxes would win over Germany and its allies. And it’s been unrealistic in expecting the ECB to plug a funding gap in the absence of a political agreement for getting back to solvency. ……Greece’s three-year bond yield is back above 20 percent, double what it was just before Alexis Tsipras was elected prime minister on an anti-austerity platform in January. At that level, there’s no way Greece can end its reliance on its bailout partners anytime soon.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was scathing yesterday about Greece’s efforts to balance its election promises with its bailout obligations, and about its standing with international investors:
“None of my colleagues, or anyone in the international institutions, can tell me how this is supposed to work. Greece was able to sell those treasury bills only in Greece, with no foreign investor ready to invest. That means that all of the confidence was destroyed again.”
Every day’s delay in cutting a deal pushes Greece a little closer to leaving the common currency. That would be a shame, since it’s an outcome no one — apart from Schaeuble — seems to desire. The mutability of euro membership could also unleash contagion and a domino effect. But it looks increasingly inevitable.”

(Mark Gilbert; “Greece’s Euro Exit Seems Inevitable”: 17 March 2015;

By April 2015, reports circulated that secret plans were being drawn up to revive the Drachma and go into default (Evans-Pritchard A, 2 April 2015; Telegraph at

On May 4th the BBC reported that Greek banks were not allowing pensioners to withdraw more than a small amount, and that public sector workers were nto being paid regularly ( However on May 6th however Greece paid back $200 million to the IMF and avoided insolvency. At that time the European Central Bank (ECB) granted further liquidity to Greece. (Phillip Inman and Helena Smith; 6 May, The Guardian; at

By June the situation was still not resolved, and Greece’s peoples were in an even more precarious position. By this time, Syriza had retreated substantially more. Michael Roberts summarises to June:

“The IMF representative in the negotiations, Poul Thomsen, has “pushed the austerity agenda with a curious passion that shocks even officials in the European Commission, pussy cats by comparison” (here are the latest demands of the Troika Greece – Policy Commitments Demanded By EU etc Jun 2015). The IMF is demanding further sweeping measures of austerity at a time when the Greek government debt burden stands at 180% of GDP, when the Greeks have already applied the biggest swing in budget deficit to surplus by any government since the 1930s and when further austerity would only drive the Greek capitalist economy even deeper into its depression. As the Daily Telegraph summed it up: “six years of depression, a deflationary spiral, a 26pc fall GDP, 60pc youth unemployment, mass exodus of the young and the brightest, chronic hysteresis that will blight Greece’s prospects for a decade to come.”

The Syriza government has already made many and significant retreats from its election promises and wishes.  Many ‘red lines’ have been crossed already. It has dropped the demand for the cancellation of all or part of the government debt; it has agreed to carry through most of the privatisations imposed under the agreement reached with the previous conservative New Democracy government; it has agreed to increased taxation in various areas; it is willing to introduce ‘labour reforms’ and it has postponed the implementation of a higher minimum wage and the re-employment of thousands of sacked staff.

But the IMF and Eurogroup wanted even more. The Troika has agreed that the original targets for a budget surplus (before interest payments on debt) could be reduced from 3-4% of GDP a year up to 2020 to 1% this year, rising to 2% next etc. But this is no real concession because government tax revenues have collapsed during the negotiation period. At the end of 2014, the New Democracy government said that it would end the bailout package and take no more money because it could repay its debt obligations from then on as the government was running a primary surplus sufficient to do so. But that surplus has now disappeared as rich Greeks continue to hide their money and avoid tax payments and small businesses and employees hold back on paying in the uncertainty of what is going to happen. The general government primary cash surplus has narrowed by more than 59 percent to 651 million euros in the 4-month period of 2015 from 1.6 billion in the corresponding period last year
The Syriza government has only been able to pay its government employees their wages and meet state pension outgoings by stopping all payments of bills to suppliers in the health service, schools and other public services. The result is that the government has managed to scrape together just enough funds to meet IMF and ECB repayments in the last few months, while hospitals have no medicines and equipment and schools have no books and materials; and doctors and teachers leave the country.

Even Ashoka Mody, former chief of the IMF’s bail-out in Ireland, has criticised the attitude of his successor in the Greek negotiations: “Everything that we have learned over the last five years is that it is stunningly bad economics to enforce austerity on a country when it is in a deflationary cycle. Trauma patients have to heal their wounds before they can train for the 10K.”

The final red lines have been reached. What the Syriza leaders finally balked at was the demand by the IMF and the Eurogroup that the government raise VAT on electricity by 10 percentage points, directly hitting the fuel payments of the poorest; and also that the poorest state pensioners should have their pensions cuts so that the social security system could balance its books. Further down the road, the Troika wants major cuts in the pensions system by raising the retirement ages and increasing contributions. The Syriza leaders were even prepared to agree to some VAT rises and pension ‘reforms’, but the two specific demands of the Troika appear to have been just too much.”

(Roberts, Michael Blog; June 15, 2015;: “Ten minutes past midnight”;

Increasingly leading economists including Nobel Laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, Amartya Sen and others – warned about a new “Versailles moment”, and insisted that German stubbornness was actually bad for Europe as a whole, and that a “hair-cut” to the debt was necessary – i.e. a dramatic waiver-cut of the debt (Simon Wren-Lewis. “Why Amartya Sen Is Right About What Is Being Done To Greece”; 12 June 2015; in ‘Social Europe’ at President Obama of the USA had already agreed that:

“”You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression.”
“At some point, there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits,” (Aurelia End; Obama joins ally list on Greek austerity relief )

As the Left inside Syriza resisted Tsipras’s slippery slope of acceptance of new demands, they increasingly pointed to the example of Iceland who had defaulted on international debts in a similar situation. They got substantial agreement from even the ANSEL coalition party members also. (Ambrose Pritchard-Evans. “Syriza Left demands ‘Icelandic’ default as Greek defiance stiffens”.14 June ‘Daily Telegraph’; ).

In a twist to the pre-July series of negotiations, as even more demands were made of the package being offered by Tsipras and Varoufakis, Tsipras called a snap referendum, saying he needed to have a further mandate form the Greek people, in order to agree to the latest demands and obtain the new tranche of bail-out funds. Bizarrely however, he then wrote to the Imperialists saying he would accept – only to find that the imperialists had withdrawn their offer. Tsipras had to go on to the snap Referendum:

“Tsipras infuriated eurozone finance ministers by calling a snap referendum on proposals to agree a deal to release the €7.2bn in bailout funds it needed to meet an IMF repayment. His argument was that the concessions still being demanded by creditors, including VAT rises and rapid reform of the unaffordable pension system, and the lack of any serious prospect of debt relief, meant he could not sign up without a fresh public mandate – and, indeed, he and Varoufakis immediately urged their countrymen to vote “No”.

Yet it emerged that while publicly lambasting the troika, the very same Tsipras had dispatched a two-page letter to Brussels that caved into many of the demands he had angrily rejected a few days earlier – and continued to insist on putting to the public vote. It was too late: his exasperated creditors, and Germany in particular, in the person of Berlin’s implacable finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, decided enough was enough and the offer was no longer on the table. Amid the storm of political recriminations, the European Central Bank capped financial support to the Greek banking sector, forcing the government to impose capital controls, to stem the relentless slow-motion bank run that has been leaching the life out of the country’s financial system for months. And last Tuesday, as it warned it would, Athens defaulted on its payment to the IMF. To all intents and purposes, the country is bust.

So Greek voters now face trudging to the polls today, either to vote Yes to a set of proposals that are no longer on the table – presumably ushering in a new, more emollient government that would get straight back to the negotiating table – or to send a defiant no to further austerity. Tsipras and Varoufakis insist that “No” would not mean plunging out of the eurozone, let alone the EU. Instead, they say they would re-enter talks as if brandishing a petition. Yet last time they were handed a stock of political capital by the Greek public, in January’s general election, they quickly squandered it. Both Tsipras and Varoufakis have forged their political reputations by rejecting consensus and overturning the received wisdom. But international diplomacy means understanding that everyone at the table, whatever your grievances against them, has their own mandate and their own domestic audience to placate.

Instead of opening up ways for the troika to save face, Tsipras and Varoufakis have used every means available – from provocative tweets to spiky speeches in Syntagma Square – to heighten the divisions between Greece and its eurozone partners, accusing them of trying to blackmail and humiliate the Greek people into submission.”

(Observer Editorial. “The Observer view on Greece’s referendum “5 July 2015;

In the midst of this circus, before the Referendum – the USA and the IMF (in the person of Christine Lagarde) exerted further pressure on the Germans to bend. Already calls had been made by many economists, that Germany had been granted a waiver on the demands at the end of the First Word war (the Versailles treaty). These had been firmly ignored by the German imperialists. Now the IMF threw a spanner into the erst-while United Front of the imperialists:

“The International Monetary Fund has electrified the referendum debate in Greece after it conceded that the crisis-ridden country needs up to €60bn (£42bn) of extra funds over the next three years and large-scale debt relief to create “a breathing space” and stabilise the economy.
With days to go before Sunday’s knife-edge referendum that the country’s creditors have cast as a vote on whether it wants to keep the euro, the IMF revealed a deep split with Europe as it warned that Greece’s debts were “unsustainable”.
Fund officials said they would not be prepared to put a proposal for a third Greek bailout to the Washington-based organisation’s board unless it included both a commitment to economic reform and debt relief.
According to the IMF, Greece should have a 20-year grace period before making any debt repayments and final payments should not take place until 2055. It would need €10bn to get through the next few months and a further €50bn after that.
The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed the IMF’s intervention saying in a TV interview that what the IMF said was never put to him during negotiations.”

(Philipp Inman, Larry Elliot, Alberto Nardelli; IMF says Greece needs extra €60bn in funds and debt relief”; The Guardian 2 July 2015; at

The Referendum was held on 5th July 2015. The result was a defiant “NO!” to the European imperialists:

“The final result in the referendum, published by the interior ministry, was 61.3% “No”, against 38.7% who voted “Yes.”
Greece’s governing Syriza party had campaigned for a “No”, saying the bailout terms were humiliating.
Their opponents warned that this could see Greece ejected from the eurozone, and a summit of eurozone heads of state has now been called for Tuesday.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said late on Sunday that Greeks had voted for a “Europe of solidarity and democracy”.
“As of tomorrow, Greece will go back to the negotiating table and our primary priority is to reinstate the financial stability of the country,” he said in a televised address.
“This time, the debt will be on the negotiating table,” he added, saying that an International Monetary Fund assessment published this week “confirms Greek views that restructuring the debt is necessary.”

(Mark Lowen; “Greece debt crisis: Greek voters reject bailout offer”; 6th July; BBC

Strangely – Tsipras appeared not too happy. It became clear that he had been expecting a ‘Yes’ vote, which would enable him to cave in to the EU demands. He had relied on the often remarked on “wish of the Greek peoples to see themselves as European” and thus not to risk leaving the EU. But the Greek people had seen the callous manipulations of the EU leaders.

On the same day the results were announced, Yanis Varoufakis resigned – saying that this would help the negotiations going forward, but that this resignation had been essentially, at the request of Tsipras.

Proponents of the logical outcome of the “No” Vote – such as Yanis Varoufakis – were simply told to drop alternative plans. Varoufakis had been drawing up “Plan B” – whereby if the Troika did not retreat to any key extent – Greece would resurrect the pre-Euro currency of the Drachma.

Astonishingly, given this pledge by the Greek people to stand fast, in the final run of negotiations with the EU, Tsipras – then completely capitulated to Eurozone, primarily German imperialists. Unsurprisingly, in the renewed negotiations – the European leaders and most sections of banking capital – had simply turned their backs on the Greek populations views and demanded even harsher terms:

“The Greek government capitulated on Thursday to demands from its creditors for severe austerity measures in return for a modest debt write-off, raising hopes that a rescue deal could be signed at an emergency meeting of EU leaders on Sunday….Athens has put forward a 13-page document detailing reforms and public spending cuts worth €13bn with the aim of securing a third bailout from creditors that would raise €53.5bn and allow it to stay inside the currency union.
A cabinet meeting signed off the reform package after ministers agreed that the dire state of the economy and the debilitating closure of the country’s banks meant it had no option but to agree to almost all the creditors terms.”

(Phillip Inman, Graeme Wearden and Helena Smith: ”; 9 July 2015 Greece debt crisis: Athens accepts harsh austerity as bailout deal nears “Greek cabinet backs a 13-page package of reforms and spending cuts worth €13bn to secure third bailout and modest debt writeoff

As even the Guardian concluded: “Generally, Tsipras appears to have finally capitulated in the face of threats that Greece would be ejected from the eurozone:

“Greece and the rest of the eurozone have finally reached an agreement that could lead to a third bailout and keep the country in the eurozone.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras conceded to a further swathe of austerity measures and economic reforms after more than 16 hours of negotiations in Brussels. He has agreed to immediately pass laws to further reform the tax and pension system, liberalise the labour market, and open up closed professions. Sunday trading laws will be relaxed, and even milk producers and bakers will be deregulated.
The Financial Times has dubbed it:
‘The most intrusive economic supervision programme ever mounted in the EU’.
Greece was forced to accept these measures after Germany piled intense pressure, as a price for a new deal. EU officials told us that Tsipras was subjected to “mental waterboarding” in closed-door meetings with Angela Merkel, Donald Tusk and Francois Hollande.
The plan must now be approved by the Athens parliament by Wednesday, and then voted through various national parliaments. If agreement is reached, talks can then begin towards a a new three-year bailout worth up to €86bn (£61bn), accompanied by further monitoring by Greece’s creditors.
The deal appears to end Greece’s five-month battle with its creditors, which has gripped the eurozone, dominated the political agenda and alarmed the markets.
Emerging from the summit, Tsipras admitted it had been tough – but insisted he had won concessions on debt relief (sometime in the future) as well as the medium-term funding plan.
He also managed to persuade the eurozone that a new investment fund, that will manage and sell off €50bn Greek assets, would be based in Athens not Luxembourg.
But generally, Tsipras appears to have finally capitulated in the face of threats that Greece would be ejected from the eurozone.”

(Graeme Wearden and Helen Davidson. “Greek debt crisis: deal reached after marathon all-night summit – as it happened”. The Guardian 13 July 2015;

Yanis Varoufakis summed the story up to that point as a “coup”:

“The recent Euro Summit is indeed nothing short of the culmination of a coup. In 1967 it was the tanks that foreign powers used to end Greek democracy. In my interview with Philip Adams, on ABC Radio National’s LNL, I claimed that in 2015 another coup was staged by foreign powers using, instead of tanks, Greece’s banks. Perhaps the main economic difference is that, whereas in 1967 Greece’s public property was not targeted, in 2015 the powers behind the coup demanded the handing over of all remaining public assets, so that they would be put into the servicing of our un-payble, unsustainable debt.”

(Varoufakis, Y. “On the Euro Summit’s Statement on Greece: First thoughts”; 14 July 2015.

While the Referendum gave a clear signal that the Greek people had rejected the spirit of compromise being forced by the Western Banks – the questions had been framed deliberately imprecisely. It did not ask the Greek people to consider the option of leaving the Eurozone as such. This allowed the Tsipras government to posture it did “not have a mandate” to reject the harsh terms of the Troika and move Greece to leave the Eurozone.

Inevitably this will lead to a rupture of the Syriza United Front:

“…. Syriza, which is in coalition with the rightwing populist Independent party, is expected to meet huge opposition from within its own ranks and from trade unions and youth groups that viewed the referendum as a vote against any austerity.

Panagiotis Lafazanis, the energy minister and influential hard-leftist, who on Wednesday welcomed a deal for a new €2bn gas pipeline from Russia, has ruled out a new tough austerity package. Lafazanis represents around 70 Syriza MPs who have previously taken a hard line against further austerity measures and could yet wreck any top-level agreement.”

(Phillip Inman, Graeme Wearden and Helena Smith: Guardian Ibid; 9 July 2015)

The concession made by Greece in accepting the further round of “austerity” measures is huge:

“The new proposals include sweeping reforms to VAT to raise 1% of GDP and moving more items to the 23% top rate of tax, including restaurants – a key battleground before. Greece has also dropped its opposition to abolishing the lower VAT rate on its islands, starting with the most popular tourist attractions. Athens also appears to have made significant concessions on pensions, agreeing to phase out solidarity payments for the poorest pensioners by December 2019, a year earlier than planned. It would also raise the retirement age to 67 by 2022. And it has agreed to raise corporation tax to 28%, as the IMF wanted, not 29%, as previously targeted.
Greece is also proposing to cut military spending by €100m in 2015 and by €200m in 2016, and implement changes to reform and improve tax collection and fight tax evasion. It will also press on with privatisation of state assets including regional airports and ports. Some government MPs had vowed to reverse this.
In return, Greece appears to be seeking a three-year loan deal worth €53.5bn…….
Several EU leaders said the troika of creditors – the European commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank – must also make concessions to secure Greece’s future inside the eurozone.
Donald Tusk, who chairs the EU summits, said European officials would make an effort to address Greece’s key request for a debt write-off. …
On Thursday, the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble said the possibility of some kind of debt relief would be discussed over coming days, although he cautioned it may not provide much help.
“The room for manoeuvre through debt reprofiling or restructuring is very small,” he said.
Greece has long argued its debt is too high to be paid back and that the country requires some form of debt relief. The IMF agrees, but key European states such as Germany have resisted the idea…..
German ECB governing council member Jens Weidmann argued Greek banks should not get more emergency credit from the central bank unless a bailout deal is struck.
 He said it was up to eurozone governments and Greek leaders themselves to rescue Greece.
The central bank “has no mandate to safeguard the solvency of banks and governments,” he said in a speech.
The ECB capped emergency credit to Greek banks amid doubt over whether the country will win further rescue loans from other countries. The banks closed and limited cash withdrawals because they had no other way to replace deposits.
Weidmann said he welcomed the fact that central bank credit “is no longer being used to finance capital flight caused by the Greek government.”


At the time of writing the final scenes in the disintegrating Syriza “United Front’ parliament have yet to be played out.

However the shrewdest elements of the non-Marxist-Leninist left recognize that the time is long due, for Greece to exit the European Union to regain its own measure of independence. Many on the left agree that this will be hard.

The leading proponent of this has been Costas Lapavitas – a MP in the Greek Parliament but not a member of Syriza – and radical economist. His view has been put in several books and articles for example these cited here: ([1], Lapvitas, C. Interview with Sebastien Budgen: ‘Greece: Phase Two”; in Jacobin. At [2] Costas Lapavitsas: The Syriza strategy has come to an end’. Interview with Press Project and Der Spiegel; [3[ The crisis of the Eurozone”, July 10, 2010 ; Greek Left Review. At

Although this view has certainly been challenged (Bach, Paula. “Exit the Euro? Polemic with Greek Economist Costas Lapavitsas.” Left Voice News Project, at:

Marxist-Leninists argue that leaving the imperialist bloc of the EU – would be the correct policy for the working class, peasantry and poor sections of Greece.

When asked on how the Anasintaxi Organization sees the future events, they replied:

“Both reformist parties (“K”KE and SYRIZA) have accepted the Greek capital’s present strategic choice to maintain the country in the EU and the Eurozone… In order to contribute to the growth of the working class struggles and the rise of the revolutionary movement, the Movement for Reorganization of KKE (1918-1955) is striving, under very unfavorable conditions, to achieve the following:

A) Together with the reorganization, the re-birth of KKE (1918-1955) and the ideological-political-organizational unity of the Greek communists on basis of Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism and the dissemination of the Marxist conception of socialism-communism;
it actively supports and participates in the struggle of the working class and all the toilers against the reduction of salaries and pensions, against the deterioration of their position in general and supports all demands that aim to defend their (economic, trade-union, social and political) class interests in opposition to the foreign and Greek capital and in particular, the EU monopolies which impose directly the current austerity measures.

B) The formation of united, massive and truly independent trade unions whose aim will be the resistance to the extreme neo-liberal policy of austerity and the further development of the workers’ and people’s struggles combined with the struggle against nationalism-racism-fascism-Nazism (all very dangerous enemies of the working class and the people) as well as “anti-Germanism” and “anti-Hellenism” (the two sides of the bourgeois nationalism) incited, during this period, by the nationalist circles of the two countries. At the same time, these new trade unions will put forward the demand for the exit of the country from the imperialist EU not only because of the increasing dependence and the deterioration of the Greece-EU relations at the expense of our country but also because of the fact that the economic policy and the hard, anti-popular measures are directly imposed by Brussels.

C) The cooperation between the consistent left-wing, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist forces that will aim at the formation of a massive, anti-fascist, popular, front that will fight against the dependence on imperialism, in general, and the exit of Greece from the EU, the Eurozone and NATO.”

(Αναρτήθηκε από Anasintaxi Organization ‘Some questions and answers about the current situation in Greece’; Article to be published in “Unity & Struggle” (Extended version of an interview given to the comrades of Iran); march 30; 2015. At

APPENDIX: Select Chronology 1975 to 2015:
Amended from BBC version at:

1975 – New constitution declares Greece a parliamentary republic with some executive powers vested in a president.
1980 – Conservative Constantine Karamanlis elected president.
1981 – Greece joins EU. Andreas Papandreou’s Socialist Party (Pasok) wins elections.
1985 – President Karamanlis resigns in protest at government plans to reduce powers of president. Christos Sartzetakis becomes head of state.
1990 – Centre-right New Democracy party forms government under party leader Constantine Mitsotakis
1993 – Election returns Papandreou to power for PASOK.
2004 March – Conservative New Democracy party led by Costas Karamanlis wins general election, ending over a decade of Pasok government.
2005 April – Parliament ratifies EU constitution.
2005 December – Amid protest strikes by transport workers, parliament approves changes to labour laws, including an end to jobs for life in the public sector. The plans sparked industrial action in June.
2006 March – Public sector workers strike over pay and in protest at government plans to scrap job security laws and intensify privatisation.
2007 September – Minister Karamanlis wins a narrow majority in the poll. He says he now has a mandate for more reforms but also pledges to make national unity a priority.
2008 March – Parliament narrowly passes government’s controversial pension reform bill in face of general public sector strike and mass protests.
2008 December – Students and young people take to city streets in nationwide protests and riots over the police killing of a 15-year-old boy in Athens. Major public-sector strikes coincide to increase pressure on the government over its economic policies.

Economic meltdown
2002 January – Euro replaces drachma.
2004 December – European Commission issues formal warning after Greece found to have falsified budget deficit data in run-up to joining eurozone.
2009 October – Opposition Pasok socialist party wins snap election called by PM Karamanlis. George Papandreou takes over as new prime minister.

Debt crisis
2009 December – Greece’s credit rating is downgraded by one of world’s three leading rating agencies amid fears the government could default on its ballooning debt. PM Papandreou announces programme of tough public spending cuts.
2010 January- March – Government announces two more rounds of tough austerity measures, and faces mass protests and strikes.
2010 April/May – Fears of a possible default on Greece’s debts prompt eurozone countries to approve a $145bn (110bn euros; £91bn) rescue package for the country, in return for a round of even more stringent austerity measures. Trade unions call a general strike.
2011 June – 24-hour general strike. Tens of thousands of protesters march on parliament to oppose government efforts to pass new austerity laws.

Crisis deepens
2011 July – European Union leaders agree a major bailout for Greece over its debt crisis by channelling 109bn euros through the European Financial Stability Facility.
All three main credit ratings agencies cut Greece’s rating to a level associated with a substantial risk of default.
2011 October – Eurozone leaders agree a 50% debt write-off for Greece in return for further austerity measures. PM George Papandreou casts the deal into doubt by announcing a referendum on the rescue package.
2011 November – Faced with a storm of criticism over his referendum plan, Mr Papandreou withdraws it and then announces his resignation.
Lucas Papademos, a former head of the Bank of Greece, becomes interim prime minister of a New Democracy/Pasok coalition with the task of getting the country back on track in time for elections scheduled provisionally for the spring of 2012.

New bailout plan
2012 February – Against a background of violent protests on the streets of Athens, the Greek parliament approves a new package of tough austerity measures agreed with the EU as the price of a 130bn euro bailout.
2012 March – Greece reaches a “debt swap” deal with its private-sector lenders, enabling it to halve its massive debt load.
2012 May – Early parliamentary elections see support for coalition parties New Democracy and Pasok slump, with a increase in support for anti-austerity parties of the far left and right. The three top-ranking parties fail to form a working coalition and President Papoulias calls fresh elections for 17 June. The far-right Golden Dawn party based its 2012 election campaign on hostility towards immigrants
2012 June – Further parliamentary elections boost New Democracy, albeit leaving it without a majority. Leader Antonis Samaras assembles a coalition with third-placed Pasok and smaller groups to pursue the austerity programme.

Anti-austerity protests
2012 September – Trade unions stage 24-hour general strike against government austerity measures. Police fire tear gas to disperse anarchist rally outside parliament.
2012 October – Parliament passes a 13.5bn-euro austerity plan aimed at securing the next round of EU and IMF bailout loans; the package – the fourth in three years – includes tax rises and pension cuts.
2013 January – Unemployment rises to 26.8% – the highest rate in the EU.
2013 April – Youth unemployment climbs to almost 60%.
Public broadcaster closed
2013 June – The government announces without warning that it is suspending the state broadcaster ERT in a bid to save money. The decision gives rise to mass protests and a 24-hour strike.
2013 August – New state broadcaster EDT is launched.
2013 September – Government launches crackdown on far-right Golden Dawn party. Party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos and five other Golden Dawn MPs are arrested on charges including assault, money laundering and belonging to a criminal organisation.
2013 December – Parliament passes 2014 budget, which is predicated on a return to growth after six years of recession. Prime Minister Samaras hails this as the first decisive step towards exiting the bailout.
2014 February – Greek unemployment reaches a record high of 28%.
2014 March – Parliament narrowly approves a big reform package that will open more retail sectors to competition, part of a deal between Greece and its international lenders.
2014 April – Eurozone finance ministers say they’ll release more than 8bn euros of further bailout funds to Greece.
Greece raises nearly four billion dollars from world financial markets in its first sale of long-term government bonds for four years, in a move seen as an important step in the country’s economic recovery.

Left in power
2014 May – Anti-austerity, radical leftist Syriza coalition wins European election with 26.6% of the vote.
2014 December – Parliament’s failure to elect a new president sparks a political crisis and prompts early elections.
2015 January – Alexis Tsipras of Syriza becomes prime minister after winning parliamentary elections, and forms a coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks party.
2015 February – The government negotiates a four-month extension to Greece’s bailout in return for dropping key anti-austerity measures and undertaking a eurozone-approved reform programme.
2015 June – European Central Bank ends emergency funding. Greece closes banks, imposes capital controls and schedules referendum on European Union bailout terms for 5 July.Government reinstates former state broadcaster ERT as promised in Syriza manifesto.
2015 July – Greece becomes first developed country to miss a payment to the International Monetary Fund, having already delayed it

Video from Hayat TV: 20th Anniversary of the ICMLPO

The following videos are from the Turkish EMEP’s television coverage of the 20th anniversary of the ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle).

PCOF: 20th anniversary of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations: Long Live Proletarian Internationalism


In this year of the 20th anniversary of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, its plenary session, held in Turkey, took on a special significance. The big meeting organized by the EMEP Party of Turkey, on Sunday, November 30, was the highlight of the activities that took place all this year around the Conference and its journal, “Unity and Struggle.” Events took place in Latin America, especially in Ecuador, where our sister party is a founding member of the Conference and which hosted the first meeting in Quito. In several countries, the parties organized the distribution of the issue of the journal dedicated to this anniversary. In Istanbul, several thousand people participated with revolutionary enthusiasm in the meeting organized in a large hall, under the sign of the Conference and internationalism.

A conference in tune with the revolutionary processes

“Twenty years ago, there were 14 of our Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations who met in Ecuador, and now the Conference has 24 members.” This quantitative strengthening, emphasized at the conclusion by the Coordinating Committee, is the result of a great political, ideological and organizational work to defend and propagate Marxism-Leninism, to gain new forces in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

The Conference has been strengthened by new members who bring their experience of the revolutionary struggle, their work to organize and lead the working class and popular masses. This is especially the case for the organizations from India and Pakistan, which are participating in a session for the first time. They expanded our field of knowledge about the reality of the struggle of the working class in these countries and the important ideological struggle they are waging against Maoist and revisionist currents, which have a real presence in their countries. These comrades stressed the contribution provided by the journal Unity and Struggle, which they translate and distribute.

In this session, we also had the possibility of discussing the direct experience of several parties involved in the fight to lead the revolutionary process, especially that of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta and that of the comrades of the Tunisian Workers’ Party, which in the last parliamentary and presidential elections focused on the needs and proposals of the revolutionary pole.

We also emphasize the contributions of the Party of Labor of Turkey (EMEP), which is waging the fight in a country and region where the aggressions of the imperialist powers are concentrated and where the resistance of the peoples is developing against these wars and against the reactionary forces, such as the Islamic State and other groups trying to impose their reactionary views and practices. As the final resolution of the Conference stated: organizations such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which are developing in this context, are instruments of the international bourgeoisie and imperialism. Imperialism and finance capital support reaction, especially ones that advocate medieval ‘values’.”

We must also recognize the contributions of the Latin American parties fighting in countries whose governments, in the eyes of much of public opinion, pass for being revolutionary, that claim to be “socialist.” This is particularly the case in Ecuador, where our sister party and the revolutionary organizations are the target of attacks by the government of Correa. This ranges from the illegalization of parties such as the MPD [Democratic Popular Movement] and unions that it does not control. “The workers’ and trade union movement have been leading the restructuring of the workers’ and popular movement,” organizing the resistance and struggles of the workers, who see that billions in public money are going into the great works, “so that the profits of the banks rates reach 27%!” while at the same time, poverty is increasing, even though the government is paying $50 a month to two million people.

“Our Conference will make a leap in the coming years”

The Conference closed with this perspective. It is based on the quantitative and qualitative strengthening, in connection with the deepening of the crisis of the imperialist capitalist system and the rise of workers’ and popular resistance that are taking place everywhere, obviously with different breadth and depth.

Our party was acknowledged in the evaluation by a comrade member of the Coordinating Committee, that “there is not a revolutionary situation on the world scale, but there are weak links in the imperialist chain. One of them is Burkina Faso and we are fortunate to have a Marxist-Leninist party in that country. There are other regions where there are weak links where we do not exist. We must ask ourselves this question: how can we intervene in these processes?”

This obviously requires the work of each party and organization to strengthen itself in its own country. But the Conference has shown that its progress, as an organized force, united on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism, is helpful in the work of entrenching the parties in the reality of the class struggle, nationally and internationally. To develop together the work of solidarity with the revolutionary processes in which the Marxist-Leninist parties are fighting to the end, is to aid these parties and peoples. This aids each and all of us in the fight against this system of exploitation, oppression, poverty and wars, for the revolution and socialism.


EMEP: 20th anniversary of the CIPOML celebrated in Istanbul


The 20th anniversary of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and organisations (CIPOML) has been celebrated in Istanbul on 23 November.
20 member parties and organisations took part in the celebrations, organised by the Labour Party (EMEP).

The Celebration started at 4pm and lasted five hours. It started with a minute’s silence in the name of comrades lost in revolutionary struggle and struggle for socialism, followed by revolutionary songs of the Labour Chorus. The last piece sang by the chorus, the International, was sang together by thousands.

The opening speech of the Celebration was by Selma Gürkan, the leader of EMEP. In her speech, Gürkan gave examples of current struggles in different countries between the working classes and the bourgeoisie and stated that the victory will belong to the workers. Drawing attention to developments in the Middle East, Gürkan stressed that the Kobani resistance increased the determined struggle of peoples in the Middle East and the world.

Following Gürkan’s speech, representatives of the member parties and organisations of CIPOML have each been called to the stage and introduced. Raul Marco, the leader of the Spanish Communist Party (ML), has given a speech to represent CIPOML member organisations.

Raul Marco said “We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of CIPOML in Nazım Hikmet’s country.” He continued to say “Our determination to raise Marxist-Leninist struggle in the international arena continues. Our organisation is today an international reference. We should support our parties and organisations work. We need to ensure our international publications reach a wide audience.”

Next, it was Jilani Hammami, MP of the Tunisian People’s Front who took to the stage. Jilani started by saying “I’m a member of a nation scanning the horizon looking for the star of freedom and socialism”. After stating that the elections in Tunisia are the most critical to date she continued to say “we will never give our determination for revolution up” and finished by saying “victory is always in the horizon”.

Joint leader of the PYD, the leader of the Kobani resistance, Asya Abdullah was next to join the celebration through Skype. In pointing to 25th November ‘International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women’, she stressed the important role of women in Kobani. She continued to say “Women fighting against IS also fight for the freedom of women. Our struggle will be victorious in Kobani”.

When the joint chair of HDP – representing the Peoples’ Democratic Conference (HDK) that also includes EMEP – Selahattin Demirtaş took to the stage, the venue was filled with the slogan of “long live peoples’ solidarity”. Demirtaş said that we’re at a time where the struggles in the Middle East are coming to fruition “Kobani is the marker of this. The fight continues on the streets of Kobani between YPG, the representatives of the oppressed and IS, the representatives of imperialism. Of course the victor will be the line of freedom. Free women will be the victors. They will bury that barbarian movement just like in Stalingrad.”


Various workers staging resistances and strikes in factories in Istanbul also joined the CIPOML celebration. Workers’ organisations in distant cities sent their supporting statements. İstanbul-Tuzla shipyard workers saluted CIPOML celebration with slogans of “End illegal killings at work” and “End the exploitation of foreign workers.” Health sector workers also saluted the celebration with their message of “funding for health, not war”.

Workers’ and public workers’ unions such as the Revolutionary Workers’ Unions Confederation (DISK) and the Public Workers’ Unions Confederation (KESK) were also represented by their leaders and managers.

The celebration continued late into the night with concerts from various groups.


ICMLPO: Resolution of Solidarity with the People of Haiti


By decision of the Security Council of the United Nations, Haiti has been militarily occupied by MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] since June 1, 2004.

This occupation is taking place under the excuse that it is a humanitarian mission that aims to “stabilize the country,” but it is actually trying to prevent the Haitian people from exercising their sovereignty and their right to self-determination.

After 10 years of occupation Haiti is in a serious political and institutional situation, with a sharp decline in democratic rights and a permanent state of violent repression of popular demonstrations for social, economic and political demands.

MINUSTAH also guarantees the entry of capital from multinational enterprises that are taking over strategic areas of the economy, such as mega-mining, luxury tourism, agro-exports and maquiladoras.

The United States, France and Canada are leading the strategic intelligence and planning of the occupation, and what is most unfortunate is that Latin American governments that claim to be democratic, such as Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and El Salvador maintain occupation troops over this fraternal country and people.

Most of the Haitian people, 89% according to a survey, reject the occupation and demand that it be immediately ended, and they are systematically carrying out demonstrations.

The International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations supports the people of Haiti in this demand and calls on its members and the peoples of Latin America to express militant solidarity with this people, which began the struggle for independence from European colonialism, especially of France, in the Americas.

The ICMLPO will develop a campaign of solidarity with Haiti in coordination with the revolutionary organizations in that country, on the occasion of the 211 anniversary of the independence of that fraternal people.

20th Plenary of the ICMLPO

Communist Party of Benin
Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta (Burkina Faso)
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist Leninist)
Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark
Communist Party of Labor of the Dominican Republic
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of the Workers of France
Organization for the Construction of the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany
Movement for the Reorganization of the KKE (1918-1955) Greece
Revolutionary Democracy Organization of India
Party of Labor of Iran (Toufan)
Communist Platform of Italy
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Democratic Way of Morocco
Workers Front of Pakistan
Peruvian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist)
Workers’ Party of Tunisia
Party of Labor of Turkey
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela

Turkey, November 2014


ICMLPO: Support the resistance in Kobane, support the liberation struggle of the peoples

MLKP fighters in the Kobane resistance

MLKP fighters in the Kobane resistance

Resolution adopted at the plenary session of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations

The sharpening of the Syrian conflict, driven by the reactionary forces in the region, particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, under the supervision and coordination of the United States and French imperialists, is part of the political strategy to redesign the Middle East.

Turkey not only wants to lead Sunni Islam, reviving its neo-Ottoman dreams, but to prevent the self-determination of the Kurds in Rojava (the part of Kurdistan in Syria), because they play an important role as a reference for the Kurds in Turkey on their way to achieving national self-determination.

However, given the exclusiveness with which the US has acted in its interventionist policy, the opposition that it put together (the Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces of Syria and its armed wing the Free Syrian Army) has lost its influence and has left it to the radical Islamist gangs such as Al Qaeda.

The sharpening of inter-imperialist contradictions surrounding the conflict in Syria have created favorable conditions for the struggle of the Kurdish people, who have always been under the combined pressure of regional reactionary groups and the imperialists to prevent their self-determination and their developing autonomous governments in Rojava .

The Turkish Government perceives as a threat the existence of the administrations built by the Kurds in Rojava under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party, PYD, in collaboration with other peoples and religious groups. It also considers it difficult to impose its plan based on negotiations with Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK. Therefore it has supported in all forms the Islamic State and Al Nusra (Front for the Victory of the People of Greater Syria). The great resistance of the Kurdish people and the solidarity all over the world gave Kobane an important significance for all oppressed peoples. The resistance in Kobane is growing and developing the hope of all oppressed peoples for a secular democratic future under the threat of the brutality of the Islamic State and religious fanaticism used by the reactionaries in that region and the imperialists.

We, the members of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO) support the liberation struggle of oppressed peoples and the resistance in Kobane. We oppose the imperialist interventionist policies in the Middle East and other regions of the world.

To defend the struggle for self-determination of the Kurdish people, the Palestinian people and all the oppressed peoples is the task of the working class and all peoples of the world.

Turkey, November 2014


Statement of the Plenary of the ICMLPO: Twenty years on the road of struggle and unity for the Revolution and Socialism



The Plenary session of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO) to mark its 20th anniversary, met in Turkey to discuss important issues of the international situation, of political work, of the question of the Popular Front, and of the orientation for activity with working and communist women in their respective countries.

The meeting emphasized the commitment to continue the struggle against capitalism, imperialism and the international bourgeoisie, and adopted decisions on the current situation of the class struggle in the world and the tasks of the working class.

The plenary of the ICMLPO denounces all forms of injustice, reduction and freezing of wages, the policy of the imperialist monopolies and their governments, the accumulation of capital on the basis of imposing more taxes and raising the prices of goods and services, policies that are provoking rebellion and struggles of the working class and the peoples.


The defenders of the capitalist-imperialist system launched the idea that a democratic and prosperous world, without crises and wars, was possible. They claimed that capitalism was the only way to achieve the objectives and aspirations of the peoples. However, undisputable facts show, once again, that capitalism cannot provide any better future for the working class, the workers and the peoples.

The productive forces, industrial production and services are developing constantly. The development of these productive forces can no longer be contained within the framework of the capitalist relations of production. At present, the level of the contradiction between socialized production and capitalist appropriation of the means of production surpasses all previous times in history. Finance capital, which imposes parasitism and corruption that generate super-profits in the capitalist metropolises has developed and spread to the farthest corners of the world.

Outsourcing and fragmentation of the time and place of the labor processes and flexible working hours have become general. However, they have imposed disorganization, low wages, primitive conditions of work, unemployment and layoffs that are increasing; capitalist exploitation is growing. The intensification of exploitation and the profits of monopoly capital, the worsening of working and living conditions, are the main factor of the contradiction between labor and capital.

The development of capitalism means poverty alongside wealth and increased inequality in distribution. Impoverishment and misery are spreading. Even in the developed capitalist countries of Europe, the number of homeless families is increasing, begging is spreading and the search for food thrown away in garbage cans is becoming usual. Hunger has spread to other places, beyond the regions of endemic drought and famine in Africa.

As a consequence of capitalism the deterioration and exploitation of the environment is becoming so serious that it cannot be ignored: soil erosion, water and air pollution, the destruction of nature by the unbridled pursuit of profit, has reached high levels, has caused major climate changes that threaten the future of human beings and other living species.

The inter-imperialist contradictions and competition are leading to a renewal of economic and commercial alliances which constitute a new offensive against the living standards of the workers and peoples. Agreements such as the Asia-Pacific bloc, the BRICS under the leadership of China and Russia, the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and the European Union, are part of the effort of the imperialists and bourgeois governments to seek new areas of influence for their capital and to further exploit the working class and increase the oppression of the peoples.

The capitalist crisis that broke out in 2008, which began in the US, affected all countries. It destroyed productive forces. The imperialist and capitalist countries through their governments initiated a policy of corporate bailout using billions of dollars and euros for this purpose. These funds were taken from the public treasury, from the workers and peoples through taxes; they led to a reduction in wages, to unemployment and cuts to social security among other measures. Thus the bourgeoisie has shown once again its hostile and contemptuous attitude to the working classes. In various countries, more than 10 million workers were made unemployed; their salaries were reduced to as little as one third; their retirement age was increased; their pensions were drastically decreased.

All this shows that capitalism lacks a humane conscience. While the centralization of capital increases, the full weight of the crisis lies on the workers and oppressed peoples, with very severe results, particularly in unemployment, among the women and youth.


The economies of the US and some European countries, where a process of relative recovery and revival began in 2009, have failed to maintain this; now signs of a new crisis are arising. The debts incurred by the States to carry out the bailouts of corporations in 2008 represent a heavy burden on the economies of the capitalist countries. Except for China, all the countries are in debt.

Currently, one sees a decline in growth rates and also signs of recession. Moreover, the economies of several countries are showing a negative growth.

The figures for unemployment and poverty are alarming. According to data of the International Labor Organization, there are 202 million unemployed worldwide. Poverty rates for 2013 show that there are 1,000 million people whose daily income is less than $1 while 2,800 million people have daily incomes of less than $2.

There are 448 million malnourished children; each day 30,000 children die from lack of treatment for curable diseases.

Emigration has reached unprecedented levels. Hoping to reach the developed countries, to achieve a better life, a job to earn a living, millions of people emigrate from the dependent countries, where there is poverty caused by imperialist plunder and where regional wars persist.

A large number of these people (including women and children) die before they get where they wanted to go. Those who do make it become victims of discrimination, racist and xenophobic attacks, of the most precarious conditions of work with the lowest wages.


The contradictions among the imperialists are sharpening and inter-imperialist contention is growing.

The claims of those who advocate “globalization,” based on manipulating the development of the trend towards integration of the world economy, say that “the old imperialism no longer exists,” that “the analysis of imperialism is obsolete, surpassed.” All this is nothing but propaganda of the imperialists themselves.

The hegemony of finance capital, whose networks continue to expand worldwide, financial speculation for the purpose of the monopoly looting, including the maximum advantage of state resources, are real and its existence needs no proof.

On the one hand, the number of millionaires is increasing daily, as are the profits of the monopolies and investment banks. On the other hand, the working masses and workers are growing constantly, but their working conditions are worsening and their poverty is deepening. These are also facts that do not need proof.

The regional wars and imperialist interventions are continuing; the contradictions and struggle for hegemony among the imperialist states are sharpening. One cannot say that the reactionary bourgeois and imperialist states only act outside their country, only through expansion, without recognizing the consolidation of the “home front”; the expansion of imperialism is also carried out through the exploitation of the working class in their own countries.

After the defeat of the workers’ movement and the demise of socialism, the world has become a place for bourgeois political relations, a completely reactionary world.

The norms of the so-called “welfare state” were considered unnecessary and rapidly “neoliberal” political measures were applied. The bourgeoisie, with its triumph over and disorganization of the workers’ movement, is carrying out an increasingly reactionary offensive in all countries.

Bourgeois democracy, whose duplicity and formal nature is undisputable on the issue of equality and freedom, has become even more reactionary with the “neoliberal process.”

Reaction is attacking all ideological, political, cultural, moral and legal spheres. The growth of conservatism together with medieval “values” is the defining feature of current development. Organizations such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which have become strengthened under these circumstances, have become useful tools of the international bourgeoisie and imperialism.

Imperialism and financial capital support this reaction, particularly in its medieval form, and are making it into the fundamental basis of their hegemony. Even the capitalist countries where bourgeois democracy is relatively advanced are showing fascist trends and a police state. In recent times, there have been the lessons learned by events in Ukraine, which highlight the limits of bourgeois democracy.

In Ukraine, a center of conflicts between the imperialist powers, the developed capitalist countries that were considered the “cradle of advanced democracy” have no qualms about openly supporting neo-Nazi and fascist forces.


The struggle of the workers and peoples is the other side of the coin.

The anger and discontent, accumulated due to the cruelty of the socio-economic offensive of monopoly reaction, has provoked popular uprisings and mass struggles. The last years are filled with examples of popular movements that emerged in response to the offensive of reaction, of the international bourgeoisie and imperialism.

These popular demonstrations, strikes and massive protests, the uprisings and rebellions, although they have not yet managed to undermine the reaction of the bourgeoisie, show the prospects for development in the near future.

In the Middle East, divided by artificial borders by imperialism and its allies, which do not recognize the right of self-determination of the peoples, the “status” formulated one hundred years ago is disintegrating.

Syria, a country that has lost its territorial integrity, is seeking its future with the end of the civil war. Clearly, Iraq, a country that has never become firmly organized and integrated, influenced by the Syrian civil war, cannot continue as it has until today. The future of this country will be determined by the struggle of the Iraqi people of all faiths and nationalities, who have been dragged into conflicts and sectorial and ethnic divisions.

The future of Egypt is linked to the outcome of the struggle between the people and national and international reaction.

The Kurdish people have taken important steps to determine their own future, establishing democratic mandates in three cantons; joining with the nations of Rojava (Western Kurdistan).

The struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and to organize themselves as a state is continuing despite the Israeli Zionist offensive.

Strikes and protests in Spain, South Africa, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and France, have emerged as new and dynamic subjects of the struggle.

In Tunisia, the struggle for rights and freedoms is growing and the Popular Front is being strengthened.

The people of Burkina Faso are carrying out a revolutionary struggle to take their future into their own hands, defeating one dictatorship after another.

In the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the peoples are fighting against religious reaction and the governments allied to imperialism.

In Turkey, the resistance of Gezi in June, in Taksim; in Brazil the protests against rising fares; in Chile the student demonstrations have increased the confidence of young people in themselves; they are demanding democracy and freedom.

The struggles that emerged in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, are being strengthened.

In the popular resistance and mobilizations that are taking place in these countries, the mass participation and attitude of resistance of the workers stands out. This also shows concretely the determining role of women in the advance of the struggle of the working class and peoples.


Clearly these demonstrations, resistance and strikes are a source of hope in the struggle of the working class and peoples. However, the massive mobilizations of the workers and peoples also have the weakness of the lack of organization and consciousness, and on the vanguard level the participation of the working class as an independent class.

In recent years the popular demonstrations show that we have not yet overcome the disorganization caused by the defeat suffered by the working class.

Our immediate and concrete task is to change this situation. The disorganized demonstrations can not have a definitive success without a revolutionary program with independent demands, although they may achieve some advances over bourgeois reaction.

On this issue the responsibility belongs to our parties and our organizations. To increase our numbers among the workers and laboring people; to recognize the immediate democratic and economic demands and link the fight to the victory of the revolution and socialism; this is the only way. The objective conditions for socialism are more mature than ever; however, these demand in an unquestionable way the unity and organization of the working class and laboring people.


Today, just as yesterday, the revolution necessitates strategic alliances. Class alliances built in action, that correspond to the practical political needs of the struggle, in various forms. The working class, the laboring and oppressed peoples, are advancing in their struggle to repel the attacks by building partial and temporary alliances. What is fundamental is to build these alliances around programs of struggle that include concrete and immediate demands of the working class and oppressed peoples. The present task of achieving unity, alliances, of building Popular Fronts, is inevitable, as were the united fronts against fascism in the past.

This is especially important in order to increase the political and ideological power of the working class and of our parties, and to create and develop popular organizations that advance the wheel of history.


There are countries in which the ideologues and spokespersons of the opportunist and revisionist parties and organizations invent “new” ideas and proclamations every day and try to distort the class struggle.

In Brazil, the social democratic government, in Spain Podemos [We Can], in Greece the “left” of Syriza, etc. are current examples. On the other hand, the “progressive” governments are becoming worn out, they are losing ground and prestige in Latin America.

Once again events show that reformism and liberalism have nothing to give the working class and the peoples.

Another mystification is the supposed progressive nature of Russian and Chinese imperialism as opposed to United States imperialism and its Western partners; this falls under its own weight, since their confrontations correspond to the preservation and expansion of their own interests. This is nothing more than embellishing bourgeois reaction and imperialist capitalism.


The present events confirm that the class struggle is the motive force of history, that the working class is the fundamental force and the vanguard of the revolution and socialism.

That is why we call on the workers and peoples of all countries, on the youths, the progressive scientists and intellectuals of the world to unite and raise higher the fight against the international bourgeoisie, reaction and imperialism.

In this process, the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations will assume all its responsibilities and fulfill its necessary tasks.

ICMLPO, Turkey, November, 2014.

Communist Party of Benin
Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta (Burkina Faso)
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark
Communist Party of Labor of the Dominican Republic
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of the Workers of France
Organization for the Construction of the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany
Movement for the Reorganization of the KKE (1918-1955) of Greece
Revolutionary Democracy Organization of India
Party of Labor of Iran (Toufan)
Communist Platform of Italy
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Democratic Way of Morocco
Workers Front of Pakistan
Peruvian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist)
Workers’ Party of Tunisia
Party of Labor of Turkey
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela


Vietnamese Revolutionary Art

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #53, “Aesthetics and Revolution – Essays and Talks.


Western Artists and revolutionaries, are familiar with the socialist realist traditions of the USSR, Albania and of China. They also have a deep affection and respect for revolutionary painting from the Spanish Civil War, and from the South American continent especially from Mexico and Cuba. Curiously, art arising from the heroic struggles of the Vietnamese peoples, is much less well known. This is a shame, since the long war of national liberation, resulted in a plethora of great art.

Ho Chi Minh’s shrewd and insightful leadership of the Vietnamese national bourgeois liberation struggle, built a successful United Front. This was dependent upon the recognition that “many currents” would help move Vietnam into independence. A striking example of this viewpoint, is Ho Chi Minh’s view of Confucius, Jesus and Marx as “close friends”:

“The teachings of Confucius have a strong point, i.e., self-improvement of personal virtue. Jesus’ Bible has a strong point, i.e., noble altruism. Marxism has a strong point, i.e. a dialectical working method. Ton Dat Tien’s teaching has a strong point, i.e.Fe; their policies are suited to the conditions in our country, Did Confucius, Jesus, Marx, and Ton Dat Tien share common points? Yes. They all pursued a way to bring happiness to human beings and benefit to society. If they were all alive today, and if they were grouped together, I believe that they would live together in harmony like close friends. I try to become their pupil.“

Ho Chi Minh 1949. Plaque in Ho Chi Minh Museum, July 2004.

With this “broad church” philosophy, Ho Chi Minh succeeded in welding such a powerful anti-imperialist front. Unsurprisingly even the art in the clearly revolutionary phases of this broad front, also reflects a broad range of styles, and even at times of contents. Perhaps this is not surprising, since the Indochinese dominant French imperialism had already stimulated interest in the French art movements.

This article outlines and illustrates some developments in visual arts over the modern era. We apologise that it cannot be anything more than a very brief introduction.

A short background to the traditional arts, showing their legacy to the modern era, may be helpful.

Ancient Vietnamese Art

Naturally, the art history of the Vietnamese peoples is commensurate with their ancient story. The traditional arts in Vietnam faced the ravages of wars and little other than architectural edifices, and some sculptures and pottery, now exists. This shows the mark of a tension between external influences – Chinese and Indian – and more ‘native’ royalty sponsored arts. Largely it was the Cham dynasty that was heavily influenced by Indian art, and remaining sculptures show remarkable similarity.

Another major cultural import was Buddhism, via India directly, but also via South China. Buddhism has left a long lasting artistic and intellectual legacy in the many temples and pagodas that still survive in virtually every village. All these external influences were absorbed, such that by the 10th –11th centuries, the dominant artistic expressions relied upon Chinese Han traditions.

This absorption can be vividly seen in architecture, both in construction styles, and in intellectual legacy. This is vividly exemplified by the Temple of Literature founded in the 11th century. As the official tour plaque says of this shrine to Confucius, his four disciples and the ten learned ones:

“The Temple of Literature was the biggest centre in the country in feudal times, contributing to the training of thousands of scholars for the nation. It was worthy of being called the First University.”

Plaque, Temple of Literature, Hanoi July 2004.

It should not surprise that this plaque lauds Confucius (551-479 BC — Wade-Giles K’ung-fu-tzu or Pinyin Kongfuzi). Although Confucius is regarded as a reactionary in the current era, his contribution to welding a state in China is not challenged. And above all Ho Chi Minh was a dedicated nationalist, whose first mandate was to recognise important steps in the development of Vietnam into a modern, strong, independent and united nation, bridging the so-called three kys (parts of Vietnam).

The existing legacy that we are aware of from Vietnamese arts rests primarily upon porcelains and ceramics, sculpture, architecture, and folk-art traditions. Of these a large mystical non-realist tradition was dominant, incorporating dragons and mythical beings. But they did nonetheless develop realist themes amidst the myths. So even the depictions of the Buddha show a real human shape and a real human expression [Plate 1]. This version of the Bhudda shows him starving but peaceful in meditation.

Notable in these statues is the covering of the wood, with several layers of lacquer [See below].

Plate 1: Statue of Sakyamuni on A Snow Mountain 1794; Height 137 cm

Editor: Cao Trong Thiem, “Bao Tang My Thuat Viet Nam”;
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum; nd; p.43

Given the ordinary peasants’ tendency to reduce all pretensions to an earthy reality, folk art usually took an explicitly realist form. The folk art illustrated life’s vagaries with a number of human motifs, as can be seen in the wood-cut traditions of Dong Ho village in Ha Bac Province [Plate 32]. This tradition was to re-surface with the development of poster art in the national revolutionary period.

Plate 2: Catching Coconuts (paper wood-cut print);
Cao Truong Theim; Ibid; p.51

Catchign Coconuts

Many of these techniques as developed over ancient times, left reservoirs of skills that were to find a new use in an entirely different set of traditions emanating from Western art and from the traditions of Socialist Realism. The ancient arts will not be further discussed here.

We will now focus, on the visual arts over the modern era.

Beginnings of Western Type Painting in Vietnam

Under French colonial domination at the turn of hte 19th – 20th centuries, Indochinese intellectuals were drawn to French and Western art movement. This was fueled by the setting up of hte Indochinese Art Academy by a Frenchman – Victor Tardieu – in 1925.

This fostered new technical skills and vocabulary, shortly to be put to profound uses by thw revolutionary artists in the era 1935-1970.

As the Vietnam Fine Arts Academy says:

“Tardieu rendered great service by laying the foundations for Vietnamese modern Fine Arts.“

Editor: Cao Trong Thiem, “Bao Tang My Thuat Viet Nam”; Vietnam Fine Arts Museum; nd; p.25.

Certainly such a strong Western external art influence was also present in the USSR before the socialist revolution.

It was perhaps somewhat less evident in the Chinese national revolution, or in Albanian art. In China, such influences were transmitted in Shanghai, to artists such as Xu Beihong (1895-1953) who went to the Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Paris [See Clarke David; Modern Chinese Art’; Hong Kong; 2000; p.18]. And of course Chinese developments in modern art and socialist realism, were spurred on by Lu Xun and his espousal of the wood-cut.

But Western art influence was much more immediately influential in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the earliest tangible expression of this Western influence realism was by artists such as Le Huy Mien [1873-1943; ‘Making comments on literary work”; 1898] [See Plate 3], and Trang Tran Phenh (‘Phagm Ngu Lao’, 1923).

The former depicts scholars debating merits of literary works, a theme not dissimilar from that of the traditional Chinese inspired Vietnamese artists. But the literature being debated now was slowly becoming more likely to do with modern liberation themes, than of poems on the moon.

Plate 3: Le Huy Mien:
‘Making Comments on a Literary Work’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p, 56


While these pioneers utilised the Western medium of oil paints, they restricted their content to local themes, expressed in the highest form of a bourgeois critical realism. By the 1930’s however, the content as well as style, of many painters had become almost identical to the most conventional of the French Impressionist schools such as Renoir. “Little Thuy” (1943) by Tran Van Can (1910-1994) for instance [p.75] [See plate 4], or “Japanese Young Girl” 1942, by Luong Xuan Nhi (1914-) [Plate 5] are clearly overtly influenced by Impressionism.

And this type of content largely came to predominate.

Plate 4: Tran Can Can
‘Little Thuy’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 74

Tran Van Can

Plate 5: Luong Xuan Nhi:
‘Japanese Young Girl’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 77

Luong Xuan Nhi

Residuals of ancient arts were now more found in the mediums used, rather than the contents or subject matter. But if the artists persisted in using the older materials, this had an effect on the subject choice. So artists attracted to old art forms such as painting on silks, rendered beautiful images of life such as Nguyen Phan Chanh’s [1892-1984] “Going to the Rice Fields” (1937) [See plate 6].

Plate 6: Nguyen Phan Chanh:
‘Going to the Rice Fields’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 58


With the later revolutionary influences, Nguyen Phan Chanh, persisted in this art form, making such vivid depictions of real life as “Team of Rattan Weavers” (1960) [See plate 7] and “A Good Harvest Meal” (1960) [p. 59].

Plate 7: Nguyen Phan Chanh:
‘Going to the Rice Fields’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 58


This tradition lasted long into the revolutionary period as the dates show. It also was linked to another tradition, that of wood-cuts which spawned in the revolutionary era, the revolutionary propagandist prints.

Perhaps a specialty of Vietnamese traditional arts was however lacquer painting.
As noted above, statuary and sculpture was often coated in a several layers of lacquer. This is a resin extracted from cuts on the bark of a common Vietnamese tree called ca y son (La: Rhus succedanea), which has is collected in total darkness lest it becomes itself dark (Catherine Noppe & Jean Francois Hubert ‘Art of Vietnam’; New York; 2003). When applied by the artist, it gives a special luster to the painted material – usually a wood – that acts as a vivid light. This light can be burnished with various pigments, into several different colours according to the pigment used, but the most common are golds, reds and greens. Each layer needs sanding down, before a new layer can be added, meaning considerable labour. The quality of lacquer derives from the number of coats, the manner in which the patterns can shine out and the expertise of sanding of the surface, which allows under layers to appear as a bas- relief.
An early exponent of the fusion of traditional form with more modern content was Nguyen Gia Tria (1908-1993).

His screen “In the Garden”, consists of 8 panels that show on one side a profusion of stylised banana and palm leaves. The obverse, consistent with the genre of French painting influences discussed, has a series of pretty, languid women redolent of Impressionist male fantasies. It is undoubtedly striking, but remains a purely decorative piece. Perhaps his ‘Clumps of bamboo in the countryside (1939) shows him at both his technical and content best, showing the florid jungle surrounding peasant on a boat passage [Plate 8].

Plate 8: Nguyen Gia Tria:
‘Clumps of Bamboo in the Countryside’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 86

Nguyen Gia Tri

That Nguyen Gia Tria wished to be linked to a more nationalist stream is evident since he professed that he:

“wished to drop his art studies as he felt all his teachers should be Viertnamese. Tardiese persuaded him to stay”;
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p. 208.

Artistic Currents during the anti-imperialist struggles

It was onto this background, that the experiences of the anti-colonial liberation struggle led a new generation of artists into uncharted areas. Influenced by a stream of aesthetic thought from bourgeois liberalism through to socialist realism, they were largely solidly realist. Many of the artists of the Fine Arts Academy decamped, and taught at “Jungle Schools”:

“The first wave of national opposition against the French rule between 1946 and 1954 attracted a good number of Hanoi Fine Arts graduates who went and taught at the “Jungle School” in Viet Bac. . A natural consequence of the shutdown in the wake of the Japanese crackdown on March 31 1954. Out in the jungle you could still sense the war, but you also felt the power of nature and the cultural wealth of ethnic minorities.”
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p.212-3

Impressively stirring content was drawn from the Indochinese liberation struggles, and often was grafted onto traditional forms, primarily of lacquer.
The results are far from simple propagandist art.

Marxist-Leninist aesthetics point out that realist content material, is the most effective art to stir the masses.

Too little attention has been paid to the differences between good realist art, and simple propaganda. Marxist-Leninists have long held that the best art both moves people, but is not ‘tendentious’, in the words of Engels. Alliance has empasised the distinction between “propagandist art”, “state sponsored art”, and the best of socialist art (Memorial to Bill Bland – see Table of Contents Alliance 53).

Much of the best of the art stemming from the Vietnamese national liberation struggle is by any standard, a high art.

Clearly tensions of style remained, and a degree of abstractionism was not uncommon, with some abstract paintings throughout the revolutionary era.
But there is little doubt that the predominant weight of paintings over the period from 1945 to the 1980’s, was realist in content.

Naturally the turns of the long war led to their own effects on the artistic climate. Hence the victory of the national liberation struggle at Dien Ben Phu decisively turned mere pastiches of French impressionists into an expression of un-welcome and hostile anti-patriotism.

Sections of the intelligentsia and artists were unwilling to contemplate any further struggle, and any possible move into socialism; and became disillusioned.
As a hostile art history by Noppe and Hubert puts it, the battle of Dien Bien Phu marked a turning point:. It was here that the Vietnamese decisively defeated French imperialism, led by General Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Some artists chose Western abstractionism at this stage:

“Yet if artists (in the Jungle Academy –ed) were first and foremost observers, they were also fighters in an unequal struggle. Within a handful of years patriotic fervour gave way to disenchantment. Bui Xuan Phai was among the first who went back to the city in 1952”.
Noppe & Hubert; Ibid; p. 212.

“A radical change of situation came with the crushing defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954… From then on socialist realism became an imperative.. painters who had joined independent fighters from 1946 and depicted courageous and unpretentious freedom fighters enjoyed the full support of the rural population, suddenly found them gagged by socialist realism only a decade later. Such as Bui Xuan Phoi, Duong Bich Lien, Nguyen Sang, and Nguyen Tu Nghien”.
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p. 113.

It is not surprising that an Art Forum was established that expressed the aspirations of national liberation, and expected its’ artists to assist in this expression.

It is equally un-surprising that the overt failure of the revolution to move to the socialist path, or the second stage of the Leninist revolution, would lead to the firm and ever stronger enthronement of capital. This was established openly by the so-called Doi-Moi reforms (See Alliance 27: On Ho Chi Minh and Vietnamese Revisionism – at

These developments led to a resurgence of abstractionism and vague, moody Vietnamese beautiful ladies in art:

“The Art forum set up headed by Thai Ba Van set the baseline for modern art.. and helped stifle artistic expression, although doi-moi reforms introduced a certain amount of leeway of 1985… All Vietnamese artists felt the burden of censorship”.
Noppe & Hubert; Ibid; p. 219.

Examples of Works in the National Liberation Struggle

To see the currents at play, we should examine the paintings over this period.

In the make-over of traditional forms, some of the lacquer work is very striking. See for example “Recalling One Afternoon in Tay Bac” 1922, by Phan Ke An (b 1923). [Plate 9] see p.103.

Beautiful sun burnished green mountains form a background to a small troop of soldiers crossing a ridge. Here both content and form are perfectly matched. The ‘everyday’ aspect of a troop of soldiers is part of the scenery.

Plate 9: Phan Ke An:
‘Recalling One Fine afternoon in Tay Bac’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 103


In “Ham Rong Bridge”(1976) by Tran Oanh (b.1937) [Plate 10], workers are shown against an impressive background of the river in brilliant reds and golds.

Plate 10: Tranh Oanh
‘Ham Rong Bridge’;
Unpublished Source.


There is little doubt that the use of such heavy reds in this late painting, is an allegory for socialism. This use of the red and gold lacquer is made even more explicit in such paintings as the large and impressive 4 panels of the “The Nghe Tinh Soviet” of 1958 by six painters led by Nguyen Duc Nung [Plate 11].

Plate 11: Nguyen Dic Nung, Tran Dinh Tho, Pham Van Don, Nguyen Van Ty, Huynh Van Thuan, Nguyen Sy Ngoc:
“Soviet in the Provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh”
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.109


Even some of the abstractionist elements during this period, are sometimes very powerful. Such as for example “From Darkness (1982) by Le Quoc Loc (1918-1987) [Plate 12] (p.102). Surrounding blocks of black and gold shapes of lacquer, depict houses in the night. In one off-centre house, placed high on the wood surface, a gold and red light brightly lights a central room. The red light is the hammer and sickle on one flag, with a second flag composed of a gold five-pointed star on a red background. In front of them are black silhouettes of men and women workers saluting the flag.

Plate 12: Le Quoc Loc
“From Darkness” ;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.109


Another impressive lacquer painting, that takes as its content material honest working labour, is that by Nguyen Khang (1912-1988) of fishermen, entailed “Fishing in the Moonlight” (1943). (Plate 13). This has a dense black background, against which the somber, hard working fishermen drift in sampans above a sea of multi-coloured fish. Accentuating the three dimensional effect, two fisherwomen standing in the shallows have their arms half visible above and half below the surface of the water. This is especially interesting, in that traditional lacquer and Chinese derived paintings, usually deny any perspective.

Plate 13:
Nguyen Khang; “Fishing in the Moonlight”;
Cao Trong Thiem; Ibid; p. 60


This type of artistic tradition continued well into the 1980’s. Nguyen Khang (1912-1989), who we met above, in 1960 did the 3 panel painting “Troops Marching Across a Stream”, in the same impressive lacquer tradition as he had used in 1943 [Plate 14]. At an initial look, all one sees is a dense jungle with groves of bamboo and green profusions. Then one sees that the jungle truly is alive, that the Viet Cong are moving silently across it and fording a stream.

Plate 14: Nguyen Khang; “Troops Marching Across a Stream”;
Unpublished Source


It should not be thought that the materials were confined to lacquer. Oil was also very commonly used. For instance, depicting the road that Vietnam had come through, Huynh Van Gah (1922-1987) showed a harrowing line of Vietnamese refugee prisoners who are being foot-marched by French colonial guards [Plate 15].

Plate 15: Hyunh Van Gah
Unpublished Source


In contrast Nguyen Trong Kiem (1930-1991) composed a haunting allegory of the future – “When a Child was Born” (1960); [Plate 16]. This large painting depicts a newborn child in the arms of its mother, with an army father standing close. All around are the people, evidently poor, against a background of a bombed out city. The meaning is clear, that the new state will provide a new society.

Plate 16: Nguyen Trong Kiem
‘When a Child Was Born’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 133


While all these examples of art vary in their degree of “tendentiousness”, little that we have illustrated can be really termed hagiographic. That is not to say that there are a considerable number of images of Ho Chi Minh. Many of these are of Ho in ordinary activities, or in the guerrilla camps, of “Uncle Ho on a Mission in Viet Bac” by Duong Bich Lien (1980) [Plate 17].

Plate 17: Duong Bich Lien;
‘Uncle Ho On a Mission in Viet Bac’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 124


While these images certainly exist, the predominant feel obtained from the paintings exhibited in the Vietnam Museum of Arts is of a far broader and higher art activity than can be classified as ‘propaganda’ art or hagiographic art. Rather impressive technical and visually appealing pictures of real and ordinary people are far more predominant.

War Themes

Not even a simple overview as this, of the artistic legacy of modern Vietnam should ignore the war themes. These are in such abundance, that for instance at the War Museum Hanoi, many are not even given the honour of a label illustrating the title or the artist. A selection of these can be found relatively easily, in a publication from the British Musuem of late war drawings, in “Vietnam – Behind the Lines – Images from the War 1965-1975”; Jessica Harrison-Hall; London 2002.

This article will not discuss poster art in any detail. But an interesting historical comparison of the wood cut in Plate 3, shows again how the modern Vietnamese artist harked back to her/his heritage at a number of points. The wood cuts continue the famous Da Hong village traditions. They both depict episodes from earlier wars of national liberation, in particular those against the Chinese Han dynasty who occupied Vietnam for many years.

Plate 17: Pham Van Don; Plate 18: Hoang Tram; ‘Three Generations’; Cao Trong Thiem Ibid p.121;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.98


The sheer plethora of art produced regarding the war cannot be quickly précised in a short article, and these examples from the War Museum should suffice. But three pictures from the Fine Arts Museum are worth showing with a little discussion also. So these again revert to the fine arts tradition of using lacquer, and again do so in an ingenious manner.

Le Tri Duong (1949) painted “Breaking Through a Key Point” showing a tank with its barrel aiming at the skies, bursting through a blockade onto a red road, being hailed by 4 guerillas – three women and a man. The red lacquered road and the gold lacquered background are again symbolic. [Plate 19].

Plate 19:
Le Tri Duong; “Breaking Through a Key Point
Cao Trong Thiem; p.170.


Hyunh Van Gah, who we met above, in “Heat and Gun” shows an impressive confrontation between a phalanx of black-pajama-ed women and one old man and a US marine.

Plate 20: Hyunh Van Gah; “Heart & Gun”:

Cao Trong Thiem Ibid p.123;


In ‘Fire Coordination’, (1974) Le Huy Toan (born 1930) painted in 1974, shows a bleak and frightening landscape composed of bomb craters and shrapnel cascades into the sky, while a single young girl confronts a series of tanks approaching her.

Plate 21:
Le Huy Toan; “Fire Coordination’; Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.136


Aftermath of Doi Moi – Faceless Women and Western Reproductions

While the national liberation struggle was victorious, it was never moved beyond that to the socialist phase. The “Chinese” wall identified by Lenin between the two revolutions – firstly the national democratic liberation, and secondly the socialist revolution – was never breached in Vietnam. That Ho Chi Minh was an inspiring and great leader of the Vietnamese peoples, is beyond doubt. However his legacy is largely that of a great national liberation ideologist.

After Ho Chi Minh’s death, and the final liberation of the South of Vietnam, the state erected in Vietnam was controlled by the Vietnamese national bourgeoisie. However within a relatively short space of time, the state was once more marked by an enormous influx of foreign capital. The policy of “Doi Moi” made this quite official. That this influx of foreign capital, was both unlimited, and not without burdens on the Vietnamese people is evident. Unsurprisingly USA capital is not very high on the score sheet, being much lower than Singaporean, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese capital. Irrespective of which capital inflow is dominant, the net result has been the open and unequivocal development of capitalism in an acknowledged “open market” economy. The result on art has been frankly paralleled. Pictures of languid Vietnamese women, often faceless and often dressed (if not un-dressed) in the now ‘traditional’ white —, abound. Interestingly the market place is full of the heirs of the technically proficient artists of the earlier period. They are now largely reduced to selling the most elaborate reproductions of any Western artist that takes your fancy. From Dali to Picasso to Renoir to Van Goh – all are perfectly reproduced in oils and available at a fraction of what it might cost in the West, were it possible to get such.


Naturally, there are far more pressing concerns for the Vietnamese peoples than their art history.

Many still live in an astounding poverty.

Despite national liberation, life is hard for the Vietnamese peasants, numbering still about 75% of the population. Official figures for unemployment are around 7-10%. Degrees of disparity between rich and poor are growing rapidly, as even officials of the World Bank have recognised, citing growing ginni coefficients for Vietnam.

Vietnam’s art history however, is another affirmation of the Marxist aesthetic viewpoint, that art reflects the society in which it develops. We believe it also shows that the socialist realist tradition – as it was embraced by the Vietnamese liberation artists – is much deeper than simple hagiography. At its’ best, and why should an artist not strive for her or his best? – it is an affirmation of life, and a philosophic reflection upon all of life.


Was Stalin’s View on Art Different from that of Marx and Engels?

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #53, “Aesthetics and Revolution – Essays and Talks.”

A talk given to commemorate Bill Bland at Conway Hall, London, September 2001


This is not the occasion to dwell on Bill’s enormous contributions to the Marxist-Leninist movement in both theory and practice. That will be history to do. This evening, is to celebrate Bill as a man.

It is well known that he was passionate about the arts, and that he took very seriously, Stalin’s dictum that “art was the engineer of the human soul”. I thought it fitting therefore, to emulate Bill’s approach when answering difficult questions surrounding Stalin. It is even more fitting to attempt this upon a subject he was passionate about.

I regret that this was not done by Bill himself, for several reasons. But one of these is that to answer the question posed, will be impossible for me to do as well as Bill would have done.


Critics and pundits continue to teach incessantly how ‘bad’ art was in Stalin’s lifetime in the Soviet Union. It is commonly asserted that Stalin’s view of art was only for self-glorification or for propaganda.

For example, the popular art historian, Robert Hughes writes this in “Time” in 1994: [Italics-Editor’s emphasis]:

“Throughout his rule, Stalin had sponsored a form of state art officially known as Socialist Realism. Geared to a naive, not to say brutish, mass public barely literate in artistic matters, Soviet Socialist Realism was the most coarsely idealistic kind of art ever foisted on a modern audience – though Capitalist Realism, the never-never land of desire created by American advertising, runs it a close second…As a young man Stalin had been snubbed by the Russian intellectual elite. His revenge was to grind their faces in the ice of miracle, mystery and authority, to make culture into a form of ventriloquism from on high. Socialist Realism was a religious art celebrating the transcendent power of communist ideology, the impending heaven of world socialism and the godlike benignity of its father, Lenin’s successor, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, the man of steel. And like the traditional icons of Christ and the saints it replaced, the stuff was omnipresent. No square or schoolroom in Russia lacked its image of Stalin pointing to the future…

What strikes a modern non-Russian viewer most is Socialist Realism’s unabashed fantasy. Realism in Stalinist terms did not mean painting things as they were or even as they might be: the inevitability of Socialist progress erased that conditional “might,” along with the gap between present and future.

That which will be already is, under the world-sustaining gaze of Comrade Stalin. Ideology ascribed to Stalin the actual role of God, the creation of reality itself…

One sees how Socialist Realism transcends history, with Stalin (who in 1917 was the editor of Pravda but had no role in planning the October Revolution) being painted into the very heart of the first Bolshevik conclaves cheek by jowl with Lenin. One sees Stalin protecting the motherland from the Kremlin ramparts, towering over generals or members of the Politburo who in biological life were considerably taller than he. There he is conducting the defense of Stalingrad (though in fact he prudently avoided going anywhere near a battle), encouraging collective farmers and listening to Maxim Gorky read.

But most of all he is busy being himself: God. Fyodor Shurpin’s Morning of Our Motherland, 1946-48, is a portrait of Stalin in the literal form of the Pantocrator, contemplating a new world he has brought into being. He wears a white coat of radiant purity and is bathed in the light of an early spring morning. Behind him stretch the green pastures of a transfigured Russia, Poussin (as it were) with tractors and electricity pylons, and shy plumes of smoke rising to greet the socialist dawn from far-off factories.”

“Icons Of Stalinism Soviet Socialist Realism Portrayed A Godlike Maximum Leader Reigning Over A Communist Heaven” By Robert Hughes.

But Stalin saw Art as being: “the engineer of the human soul.” But then could Stalin not distinguish between propaganda and art? Was Stalin only interested in Art for the purpose of his own glorification?

This would be quite inconsistent with what we know of Stalin’s own views, which were first highlighted by Bill Bland. Stalin detested the Cult of Personality and recognised that it was being used by enemies to attack him (See for example, “Stalin Myths & Realities”; at

Nonetheless, the prevalent view is that Stalin was a vain-glorious dictator – in the arts as well as all other spheres of life. It is no wonder that any hint of alternative viewpoint is suppressed. So for example the influential New York Review of Books (NYRB), published Isiah Berlin’s article, that was originally written in the 1930’s for the British secret service on the state of arts under Stalin.

Berlin’s article is very convenient for conventional wisdom in that it is generally vituperative of the USSR. But the article applauded in general, the results of the state policies on art. This was most inconvenient for the NYRB. To retain even a tiny fragment that did support the USSR arts policy was anathema. Which fragment was correspondingly cut. This read:

“On the other side it must be said that the childlike eagerness and enthusiasm of Soviet readers and Soviet theatrical audiences is probably without parallel in the world. The existence of State-subsidised theatres and opera, as well as of regional publishing houses, throughout the Soviet Union is not merely a part of a bureaucratic plan, but responds to a very genuine and insufficiently satisfied popular demand. “

Isiah Berlin: ‘The Arts in Russia under Stalin’ ; [Passage Omitted From the New York Review of Books, 19 October 2000, p. 60] at:

Despite the epithet “childlike” – this perspective of a Soviet arts policy that stemmed from and spoke to the masses – was too uncomfortable for the NYRB.

Thus the general view is propagated, that in contrast to Marx and Engels, Stalin was a ‘boor’ – too uncivilized and uninterested to see beyond a propagandist art that glorified him. It is generally argued even by bourgeois critics, that Marx and Engels were men of taste who would not have inflicted “Socialist Realism” on the world. Of course it is well known how erudite Marx and Engels were, and this has been extensively catalogued (See SS Prawer: “Karl marx and World Literature”; Oxford 1978).

Even the bourgeoisie now acknowledge this.

But Marx and Engels did not live in an era when it was possible to build a Socialist state. For that reason, and for the reason that they are now long dead, they are ‘spared’ too much abuse, while more recent enemies of the bourgeoisie like Stalin who could build socialism, are vituperated.

We will ask tonight:

“How far apart were Marx and Engels from Stalin, concerning their views on the arts?”

In general the views of Stalin on the arts have been represented well by Zhdanov in his lectures and writings on art. [See Bland’s own article on “Stalin and the Arts” in this issue of Alliance 53 [At].

This is not here, an examination of the Ultra-leftist deviations in the arts such as Proletkult [See Bland cited before & Alliance 7 at] and AKhRR (The Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia)

Instead, I propose here to examine primarily, whether Stalin’s views substantially varied from those of Marx and Engels.

We will examine FIVE specific questions:

1) How did Marx and Engels view the inter-relationship of the mode of production & society to art ?

2) What did Marx and Engels view as making for ‘good art’?

3) How did Marx and Engels view art that frankly proclaimed the workers cause?

4) What were the favourite pictures of Marx, Engels and Stalin?

5) Was there good art produced in the USSR up to 1953?

State Art, Propaganda and Caricature

But first we should define certain recurrent artistic terms. 

When one sees pictures like this one by Freidin and entitled “Glory To Stalin”; it does appear to be celebrating a state event in the USSR. This could be thought of as being propaganda because it depicts Stalin favourably.


Or at the very least, it may be doubted whether this is “great art.”

But it is in fact a form of art well recognised in every society. It is what we will here call, an “Art of State”; one that helps to form the “myths” and “self-images” of a state.

Such imagery and icons are necessary to each and every state, and indeed ubiquitous in every state.

It would be quite wrong to even suggest that the USSR was unique in having such art.

For instance, this painting, by  Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, American, (1816-1868) is entitled “George Washington Crossing the Delaware”, 1851 (378.5 x 647.7 cm ,  is in the  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


It is a central iconic image that depicts George Washington’s heroic victories over the English colonists in the American War of Independence.

Whether Washington in these battles actually struck such poses or was quite as well dressed and clean is immaterial to the purpose of the artist.

It is meant to focus a nation’s gaze on one of its formers and heroes.


Similarly, the painting in the Tate Gallery Of  “The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781” by John Singleton Copley (1783) was iconic for its time, in England.

It showed a battle between English and French troop in Jersy (the Channel Islands) in a conflict sparked by the American Revolutionary Wars. Peirson’s death for the British flag was revenged by his personal manservant – whose name is not honoured in the title fo the painting.

Or even more well known, is the statue of Boadicea on the banks of the Thames just below the Houses of Parliament.


Propaganda art is at a different level from “State Art” in our view, and is more clearly designed for a day to day persuasion. Propaganda art, in general, carries a negative overtone. However, such art may be both very well done and may serve an extremely useful function. Such is the case for the posters seen here, from the USSR.

Much of the poster art from the USSR, is nowadays recognised as being both technically, but artistically as well, very fine, and is collected for huge amounts of money.


The caption is “Save Books”; by Kupreyanov


The caption is “Anti-bureaucracy” by Mayakovsky


The caption is “Help!” (During the imperislist blockade); by Dimitri Moor.

Caricature should be distinguished from propaganda, and perhaps its’ hallmark is that of an extreme exaggeration of features.

A master of this was Honore Daumier, who here, lampooned the King of France as never-endingly receiving into his vast mouth the people’s wealth:


It is quite true that some posters may be less useful, and sub-serve a true ‘propagandist’ purpose. Such for example are the numerous images of J.V.Stalin, and of V.I.Lenin in these:

Bizukhov’s “Stalin and the Railway”


“Lenin and Stalin”; Anonymous, 1948


But, it should be again reiterated that Stalin is clearly on record as abhorring and trying to prevent the Cult of Personality.

I strongly doubt postes such as these were produced at the behest of Stalin, and his stated preferences in art (See below) are a strong indication of this.

But stronger evidence, comes from the history of the USSR where Stalin at many points attempted to obstruct a Cult of the Personality arising. 

I have argued that all States have an ‘official’ art that serves as a vehicle to reinforce national images.

This was not unique to the USSR.

I have also argued that propaganda and caricature can both be valuable media for different progressive purposes.

(1) The Views of Marx and Engels on Art in Relation to Society

The Inter-relation of Art and the Society in which it is produced

As all who are interested in art will know, the origins of art lie very early on in man’s history:

“Anatomically modern humans had existed for at least the previous 50,000 years, but 50,000 years ago there appear the first signs of art, of versified tools for specific functions, and other clues to enhanced culture.”;

Johnson D & Edgar B: “From Lucy to Language”; New York; 1996; p. 52; .

“If art is an attempt to imitate nature, our Upper Paleolithic ancestors were master artists. It is impossible to visit a cave like Lascaux in south western France or Altamira in Northern Spain and not be moved by the images of horses, bison, deer, and other prehistoric animals. Art painted on the ancient cave walls. Reaching across eons of time, these lifelike yet hauntingly impressionistic paintings immediately connect us with the artists who rendered their world on cave walls nearly 20,000 years ago. When the painted cave of Altamira first came to the attention of researchers, in 1880, the immediate reaction was that such sophisticated and well-executed paintings could not have been made by prehistoric people.”

Johnson D & Edgar B: “From Lucy to Language”; New York; 1996; p. 53.

What more can connect ancient cave art than the common themes of food animals and hunting?


Early discoveries of such cave paintings were initially controversial. Pundits instantly dismissed them as “too sophisticated” to have been drawn by primitive men and women. But it is interesting that Engels did not share the general skepticism of his age, and he also accurately located the first pieces of art as being a very early part of  mankind’s history.

“By the combined functioning of hand, speech organs and brain, not only in each individual but also in society, men became capable of executing more and more complicated operations, and were able to set themselves, and achieve, higher and higher aims. The work of each generation itself became different, more perfect and more diversified. Agriculture was added to hunting and cattle raising; then came spinning, weaving, metalworking, pottery and navigation. Along with trade and industry, art and science finally appeared. Tribes developed into nations and states. Law and politics arose, and with them that fantastic reflection of human things in the human mind — religion.”

‘The Part Played By Labour In The Transition From Ape To Man’ By Frederick Engels;

Elsewhere Engels relates that the essential development needed to enable the advent of Art, was that the hand became free of a need for locomotion:

“At first, therefore, the operations for which our ancestors gradually learned to adapt their hands during the many thousands of years of transition from ape to man can only have been very simple ones. The lowest savages, even those in whom presumably a regression to a more animal-like condition with a simultaneous physical degeneration occurred, are nevertheless far superior to these transitional beings. Before the first flint was fashioned into a knife by the human hand, a period of time must have elapsed in comparison with which the historical period known to us appears insignificant. But the decisive step was taken: the hand had become free and could henceforth attain ever newer skills, and the greater flexibility thus acquired was transmitted and increased from generation to generation.

Thus the hand is not only the organ of labour, it is also the product of labour. Only through labour, through constant adaptation to new operations, through inheritance of the special development thus acquired of muscles, ligaments and, over longer periods of time, bones as well, and by the ever renewed use of this inherited refinement in new, increasingly complicated operations, has the human hand attained that high degree of perfection that has enabled it to conjure into being the paintings of a Raphael, the statues of a Thorwaldsen, the music of a Paganini. “

Frederick Engels: “The Part Played By Labour In The Transition From Ape To Man”;
in “Dialectics of Nature”: ;

Yet, if the physical anatomy of hands that produce art have not substantially changed over historical time, art certainly has.  

What explains the emergence of paintings of a Raphael from the anatomically similar hands that created the art of the Lascaux Paleolithic hand?

What makes the art of one historical period different from that of another period? Marx and Engels recognised that it was the “relations of production.

These will form the “economic structure of society”; which in turn explains all social life – “the social, political and intellectual life-process in general.” When the underlying economic conditions changes, the whole of society undergoes changes. But Marx nonetheless points out that in “the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic, in short, ideological, forms” – the relation is not as exact as in the “material transformation of the economic conditions of production.” This early and central passage from Marx’s writings is as follows:

“In the social production of their existence, men enter into definite, necessary relations, which are independent of their will, namely, relations of production corresponding to a determinate stage of development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which there arises a legal and political superstructure and to which there correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life-process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary it is their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — what is merely a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within the framework of which they have hitherto operated. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. At that point an era of social revolution begins. With the change in the economic foundation the whole immense superstructure is more slowly or more rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic, in short, ideological, forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such an epoch of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social forces of production and the relations of production.”

Karl Marx: “Preface And Introduction To A Contribution To The Critique Of Political Economy”; 1844;

In so far as the artistic object itself goes (object d’art)  Marx identifies this product as resulting from a specific form of production, centred on “beauty” and its’ appreciation. But this form of production cannot be analysed separately from analyses of a more general production. In early [‘original’] production, the overall state of the finished product is ‘primitively crude’. However, artistic production is part of the overall production in a society.

And its production itself creates a “public with artistic taste” :

“So production creates the consumer.  

3) Production not only provides the material for a need, but it also provides a need for the material. When consumption emerges from its initial natural crudity and immediacy — and its remaining in that state would itself be the result of production being stuck in a state of natural crudity — it itself is mediated as an urge by the object. The need it feels for the object is created by perception of the latter. Like every other product an objet d’art creates a public with artistic taste and a capacity to enjoy beauty. Production accordingly produces not only an object for the subject, but also a subject for the object.”

Karl Marx: “A Contribution To The Critique Of Political Economy”; Appendix I ; I. Production, Consumption, Distribution, Exchange (Circulation). (pages 20, 21).

Moreover, Marx points out that in the era of capital, even art takes place within a production work place in cooperation between a small group of workers who have divided up their labour:

“Sancho … thinks that “no one can compose your music for you, complete the sketches for your paintings. No one can do Raphael’s works for him.” Sancho could surely have known, however, that it was not Mozart himself, but someone else who composed the greater part of Mozart’s Requiem and finished it,”‘ and that Raphael himself completed “only an insignificant part of his own frescoes.

[Sancho].. imagines that the so-called “organisers of labour” wanted to organise the entire activity of each individual, and yet it is precisely they who distinguish between directly productive labour, which has to be organised, and labour which is not directly productive. In regard to the latter, however, it was not their view, as Sancho imagines, that each should do the work of Raphael, but that anyone in whom there is a potential Raphael should be able to develop without hindrance. Sancho imagines that Raphael produced his pictures independently of the division of labour that existed in Rome at the time. If he were to compare Raphael with Leonardo da Vinci and Titian, he would see how greatly Raphael’s works of art depended on the flourishing of Rome at that time, which occurred under Florentine influence, while the works of Leonardo depended on the state of things in Florence, and the works of Titian, at a later period, depended on the totally different development of Venice. Raphael as much as any other artist was determined by the technical advances in art made before him, by the organisation of society and the division of labour in his locality, and, finally, by the division of labour in all the countries with which his locality had intercourse. Whether an individual like Raphael succeeds in developing his talent depends wholly on demand, which in turn depends on the division of labour and the conditions of human culture resulting from it.”

The German Ideology. The Leipzig Council. III. Saint Max 393

Two related matters are often raised as a general criticism of these notions as they are applied to art:  

Firstly is the relationship between the economic times and the art produced an absolute relationship?

Engels made clear that anyone who insisted that “the economic factor is the only determining” factor for any particular aspect of life, was not a Marxist. The subtleties of many other factors would often intervene in an “endless host of accidents,” to make a mechanical and simple equation linking economics to each manifestation of real life – silly. Nonetheless, Engels reiterates that economics is the “ultimately determining factor”:

“According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining factor in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Neither Marx nor I have ever asserted more than this. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic factor is the only determining one, he transforms that expression into a meaningless, abstract, absurd phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure-political forms of the class struggle and its results, such as constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc, juridical forms, and especially the reflections of all these real struggles in the brains of the participants, political legal, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas-also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases determine their form in particular. There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (that is of things and events whose inner interconnection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent and neglect it) the economic movement is finally bound to assert itself. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier that the solution of a simple equation of the first degree.”

Engels to Joseph Bloch; September 21-22, 1980. Marx and Engels; in Collected Works; 

In addition to this, Marx points out that there is an “unequal development” in both material production and in art. Marx however points out that even in spite of this “unevenness,” there are material and rational explanations  – provided the subject is explored in enough detail. He takes as an example the case of ancient Greek art – that could only arise upon the basis of a Greek mythology. Yet the level of production in Greece a that time was not as high as the “peak” of Greek art might otherwise suggest: 

6. The unequal development of material production and, eg that of art. The concept of progress is on the whole not to be understood in an abstract form. Modern art etc. This disproportion is not as important and difficult to grasp as within concrete social relations e.g. in education. Relations of the United Sates to Europe. However , the really difficult point to be discussed here is how the relations of production as legal relations take part in this uneven development. For example the relation of Roman civil law (this applies in smaller measure to criminal and constitutional law) to modern production. …..

As regards art it is well known that some of its peaks by no means correspond to the general development of society; nor do they therefore to the material substructure, the skeleton as it were of the its organisation. For example, the Greeks compared with modern [nations], or else Shakespeare. It is even acknowledged that certain branches of art, e.g. the epos, can no longer be produced in other epoch making classic form after artistic production as such has begun; in other words that certain important creations within the compass of art are only possible at an early stage in the development of art. If this is the case with regard to certain branches of art within the sphere of art itself, it is not so remarkable that this should also be the case with regard to the entire sphere of art and its relation to the general development of society. The difficulty lies only in the general formulation of these contradiction. As soon as they are reduced to specific questions, they are already explained.

Let us take for example the relation of Greek art, and that of Shakespeare, to the present time. We know that Greek mythology is not only the arsenal of Greek art but also its basis. Is the conception of nature and of socials relations, which underlies Greek imagination and therefore Greek [art] possible when there are self-acting mules, railways, locomotives and electric telegraphs? What is a Vulcan compared with Roberts & Co; Jupiter compared with the lightning conductor, and Hermes compared with the Credit Mobilier? All mythology subdues, controls and fashions the forces of nature in the imagination and through imagination; it disappears therefore when real control over those forces is established… Greek art presupposes Greek mythology, in other words that natural and socials phenomenon are already assimilated in an unintentionally artistic manner by the imagination of the people… Egyptian mythology could never become the basis of or give rise to Greek art… Is Achilles possible when powder and shot have been invented? And is the Iliad possible at all when the printing press and even printing machines exist?”

Marx “Introduction” to Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58; in “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” [“The Grundrisse”]; in Collected Works; Volume 28; Moscow; 1986 p.46-47

Secondly, why does art of an earlier era resonate with us?

After all, if art is “of its’ time” – of what consequence should it be to humans many generations later? Marx also addresses this problem, in the same Introduction to Political Economy cited above, where he so memorably compares Hermes with the Credit Mobilier:

“But the difficulty we are confronted with is not, however, that of understanding how Greek art and epic poetry are associated with certain forms of social development. The difficulty is that still five us aesthetic pleasure and are in certain respects regarded as a standard and unattainable ideal. An adult cannot become a child again, or he becomes childish. But does the naiveté of the child not give him pleasure, and does he not himself endeavour to reproduce the child’s veracity on a higher level? Does not the child in every epoch represent the character of the period in its natural veracity? Why should not the historical childhood of humanity, where it attained its most beautiful form, exert an eternal charm because it is stage that will never recur? There are rude children and precious children. Many of the ancient peoples belong to this category. The Greeks were normal children. The charm their art has for us does not conflict with the immature stage of the society in which it originated. On the contrary it charm is a consequence of this and is inseparably linked with the fact that the immature socials conditions which gave rise, and which alone could give rise, to this art cannot recur.”

Marx “Introduction” to Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58; in “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”; [“The Grundrisse”] in Collected Works. volume 28; Ibid; p. 47-48.

Neither Stalin nor Lenin devoted too much time to a fully integrated view of art and art history. They had to build socialism. Lenin confessed to Anatol Lunarchasky that art was fascinating but that it would take a lifetime to sort out the innumerable problems posed in its history, but that he would have liked to do so.

Even so, it is very easy to demonstrate that Stalin agrees with these fundamental elements of the Marxist world view.

These views expressed summarise the general analysis known as Historical Materialism. Stalin wrote “Dialectical and Historical Materialism,” that forms a chapter in the famous “History of the CPSU(B).” This piece continues to be excoriated by many who see it as “reductionism” and an “over-simplification” of Marx and Engels. Marxist-Leninists however accept that it is a very cogent and clear explanation of Marx’s views:

“Hence, the source of formation of the spiritual life of society, the origin of social ideas, social theories, political views and political institutions, should not be sought for in the ideas, theories, views and political institutions themselves, but in the conditions of the material life of society, in social being, of which these ideas, theories, views, etc., are the reflection. Hence, if in different periods of the history of society different social ideas, theories, views and political institutions are to be observed; if under the slave system we encounter certain social ideas, theories, views and political institutions, under feudalism others, and under capitalism others still, this is not to be explained by the “nature,” the “properties” of the ideas, theories, views and political institutions themselves but by the different conditions of the material life of society at different periods of social development.

Whatever is the being of a society, whatever are the conditions of material life of a society, such are the ideas, theories, political views and political institutions of that society. In this connection, Marx says: 

“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” (Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 269.)”

J. V. Stalin: “Dialectical And Historical Materialism”: September 1938; In “History of the CPSU(B)”; Moscow 1939; p.115; Or in “Problems of Leninism”; Moscow; 1954; p.725. OR at:

If this general postulate of a link between modes of societal production and thought is true, are there at least some examples in art, that they specified? Fortunately as already pointed out in the fragments of Marx and Engels, there are, and we will point out some further examples.

SUMMARY: Marx, Engels and Stalin believed that the mode of production determined human consciousness. This final determinant was qualified by a complex interaction with society, but nonetheless was the starting point for an evaluation of changes in society. This determinant even determined human appreciation of “beauty.”

(2) Did Marx and Engels give us Clues as to what makes for “Good Art?”

Fortunately for us, despite the lack of any single unifying statement, both Marx and Engels were so interested in art that they left many useful analyses on art. At least some of their views are able to be condensed into the statements below. 

(i) Art must be “true” to life: The depiction artistically, of truth must be a complete one – Tomorrow’s world as well as today’s.

Art should express not only what is an apparent and obvious truth now, but also what is a latent and developing truth. This may then take a stance that projects from the world of today into the world of tomorrow.

Not only should the truth be given in all its’ aspects, but in addition true events should be presented so that it can be clear why they have become a reality. These aspects can be seen in the letter (extant only in a draft form now) that Engels sent to Margaret Harkness whose novel “City Girl”  had been sent to me:

“[Draft] [London, beginning of April 1888]  
Dear Miss Harkness, 

I thank you very much for sending me your City Girl. through Messrs. Vizetelly. I have read it with the greatest pleasure and avidity. It is indeed, as my friend Eichhoff your translator calls it, ein k1eines Kunstwerk [Original Footnote A small work of art]; to which he adds, what will be satisfactory to you, that consequently his translation must be all but literal, as any omission or attempted manipulation could only destroy part of the original’s value.  

What strikes me most in your tale besides its realistic truth is that it exhibits the courage of the true artist. Not only in the way you treat the Salvation Army, in the teeth of supercilious respectability, which respectability will perhaps learn from your tale, for the first time, why the Salvation Army has such a hold on the popular masses. But chiefly in the plain unvarnished manner in which you make the old, old story, the proletarian girl seduced by a middle-class man, the pivot of the whole book. Mediocrity would have felt bound to hide the, to it, commonplace character of the plot under heaps of artificial complications and adornments, and yet would not have got rid of the fate of being found out. You felt you could afford to tell an old story, because you could make it a new one by simply telling it truly.

Your Mr. Arthur Grant is a masterpiece. 
If I have anything to criticise, it would be that perhaps, after all, the tale is not quite realistic enough. Realism, to my mind, implies, besides truth of detail, the truth in reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances. Now your characters are typical enough, as far as they go; but the circumstances which surround them and make them act, are not perhaps equally so. In the City Girl the working class figures as a passive mass, unable to help itself and not even showing (making) any attempt at striving to help itself. 

All attempts to drag it out of its torpid misery come from without, from above. Now if this was a correct description about 1800 or 1810, in the days of Saint-Simon and Robert Owen, it cannot appear so in 1887 to a man who for nearly fifty years has had the honour of sharing in most of the fights of the militant proletariat. The rebellious reaction of the working class against the oppressive medium which surrounds them, their attempts – convulsive, half conscious or conscious-at recovering their status as human beings, belong to history and must therefore lay claim to a place in the domain of realism.” 

Letter to Margaret Harkness; Engels April 1888; Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence, Moscow; 1975; p.379-81. 

(ii) Characterisation must be accurate and represent both an individual and the background of that person – becoming a “type.”

Engels thought that it was important to depict not only a generic “type” in a character, but that the “type” should at the same time be sufficently realistic as to be recognisable as a true single “personality.”

“I have now also read Die Alten und die Neuen [The Old Ones and the New], [Original Footnote: A novel by Minna Kautsky] for which I sincerely thank you. The life of the salt-mine workers is described with as masterly a pen as were the portraits of the peasants in Stefan. [Original Footnote: Stefan von Grillenhof was the first novel written by Minna Kautsky……. the characters exhibit the sharp individualisation. so customary in your work. Each of them is a type but at the same time also a definite individual, a “Dieser,” [Original Footnote “This one”] as old Hegel would say, and that is how it should be.”

Engels To Minna Kautsky, November 2th 1885; From “Marx & Engels: On Literature & Art”; Moscow; 1976; p.87-89; London, November 26, 1885;

It should also reflect the future reality. See earlier quote from Engels.

But to do this in art, is very different from having a simple “cut-out” propagandist “formula.”

(iii) The stylistic presentation of the art must be at the highest level in order to allow the content to come out the clearest.

Numerous citations can be given of Marx and Engels insistence on achieving the highest level of professional stylistic presentation of art. It should not be forgotten that both Marx and Engels had at an early stage considered literature and poetry as a career and had both rejected this path – at least in part because they recognised their own limitations. 

A good illustration of Marx’s view that it is necessary to strike the right balance between form and content is in a letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, where Marx  critiques Lassalle’s play “Franz von Sickingen”: 

“London, April 19, 1859.
Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle, on his drama Franz von Sickingen

I am now coming to Franz von Sickingen. [Original Footnote: A Drama by Lassalle-Ed]

First of all, I must praise the composition and action, and that is more than can be said of any other modern German drama. In the second instance, leaving aside the purely critical attitude to this work, it greatly excited me on first reading and it will therefore produce this effect in a still higher degree on readers who are governed more by their feelings. And this is a second and very important aspect.

Now the other side of the medal: First -this is a purely formal matter – since you have written it in verse, you might have polished up your iambs with a bit more artistry.

But however much professional poets may be shocked by such carelessness, I consider it on the whole as an advantage, since our brood of epigonous poets have nothing left but formal polish.”

Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle; Problems Of Revolutionary Tragedy: Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle On His Drama Franz Von Sickingen Transcribed By Alliance From: “Marx And Engels On Literature And Art”; Moscow; 1976.


Those creative geniuses Marx and Engels therefore recognised a core of aesthetic principles. As can be readily appreciated by a comparison against either Zhdanov’s writings, or of the “Theses of Art,” from the Marxist Leninist Organisation Britain, drafted by Bland, the views of Marx and Engels are very similar to those enunciated by the proponents of what came to be called Socialist Realism.

(3) Should Art be “Committed?”

Whether art should be committed or not – is at the centre of the debate between pure aesthetes (“Art for Art’s Sake”) and those who argue that art has a purpose. But committed art might not art that “wears its’ heart on its sleeve.” Committed art, might be better if it does not fire the viewer’s eye with a blunderbuss. This might be another distinction between high art and propaganda art. In general, we will argue that Marx and Engels both took this line of thought. 

Thus Engels argues to Mina Kautsky, that while art “with a purpose” can well be great art (Such as that of Aeschylus, Schiller, Dante, Cervantes etc), it is not necessary to “serve the reader on a platter the future historical resolution.”

“The novel itself reveals the origins of this shortcoming. You obviously felt a desire to take a public stand in your book, to testify to your convictions before the entire world. This has now been done; it is a stage you have passed through and need not repeat in this form. I am by no means opposed to partisan poetry as such. Both Aeschylus, the father of tragedy, and Aristophanes, the father of comedy, were highly partisan poets, Dante and Cervantes were so no less, and the best thing that can be said about Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe is that it represents the first German political problem drama. The modern Russians and Norwegians, who produce excellent novels, all write with a purpose. I think however that the purpose must become manifest from the situation and the action themselves, without being expressly pointed out and that the author does not have to serve the reader on a platter the future historical resolution of the social conflicts which he describes. To this must be added that under our conditions novels are mostly addressed to readers from bourgeois circles, i.e., circles which are not directly ours. Thus the socialist problem novel in my opinion fully carries out its mission if by a faithful portrayal of the real conditions, it dispels the dominant conventional illusions concerning them, shakes .the optimism of the bourgeois world, and inevitably instils doubt as to the eternal validity of that which exists, without itself offering a direct solution of the problem involved, even without at times ostensibly taking sides. Here your exact knowledge and admirably fresh and lifelike presentation of both the Austrian peasants and Vienna “society” find ample material, and in Stefan you have demonstrated that you are capable of treating your characters with the fine irony which attests to the author’s dominion over the beings he has created.”

Engels To Engels To Minna Kautsky, November 2th 1885; From “Marx & Engels: On Literature & Art”; Moscow; 1976; pp.87-89.

He also points out to Margaret Harkness, that it is often better for the authors true opinions to remain hidden:

“I am far from finding fault with your note having written a point-blank socialist novel, a “tendezroman”, as we Germans call it, to glorify the social and political vies of the authors. That is not at all what I mean. The more the opinions of the author remain hidden, the better for the world of art. The realism I allude to may crop out even in spite of the author’s opinions. Balzac whom I consider a far greater master of realism than all the Zolas, passes, presents et a venire [past present and to come], in La Comedie Humaine gives us a most wonderfully realistic history of French “society”, especially of “le monde parisien”, describing.. almost year by year from 1816-1848 the progressive inroads of the rising bourgeois upon the society of nobles that reconstituted itself after 1815 and that set up again, as far as it could the standard of la veille politesse francaise [Old French Refinement]…. Even in economic details.. I have learned more from [Balzac] than from all the professed historians, economists and statisticians of the period together. Well, Balzac was politically a Legitimist [adherents of the Bourbons overthrown in France in 1792, who represented the interests of the landed aristocracy]; his great work is a constant elegy on the irretrievable decay of good society, his sympathies are all with the class doomed to extinction. … That Balzac was compelled to go against his own class sympathies and political prejudices, that he saw the necessity of the downfall of his favourite nobles, and described them as people deserving no better fate; and that he saw the real men of the future where, for the time being they alone were to be found – that I consider one of the greatest triumphs of Realism, and one of the grandest features in old Balzac.”

Letter to Margaret Harkness; Engels April 1888; Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence, Moscow; 1975; p.379-81;

Similarly, Marx points out to Lassalle that while the content of an art work needs to be historically accurate, it is not necessary – indeed it is often counter-productive – (“Your gravest shortcoming”) – to allow characters to be “transform(ed) [from] individuals into mere mouthpieces of the spirit of the time.”

Art therefore is not a series of speeches, it is a different article from propaganda:

“London, November 26, 1885; Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle, on his drama Franz von Sickingen ;

Hence, if you did not want to reduce the collision to that presented in Gotz von Berlichingen – and that was not your plan – then Sickingen and Hutten had to succumb because they imagined they were revolutionaries (the latter cannot be said of Gotz) and, just like the educated Polish nobility of 1830, on the one hand, made themselves exponents of modern ideas, while, on the other, they actually represented the interests of a reactionary class. The aristocratic representatives of the revolution –behind whose watchwords of unity and liberty there still lurked the dream of the old empire and of club-law — should, in that case, not have absorbed all interest, as they do in your play, but the representatives of the peasants (particularly these) and of the revolutionary elements in the cities ought to have formed a quite significant active background. In that case you could to a much greater extent have allowed them to voice the most modern ideas in their most naive form, whereas now, besides religious freedom, civil unityactually remains the main idea. You would then have been automatically compelled to write more in Shakespeare’s manner whereas I regard as your gravest shortcoming the fact that a la Schiller you transform individuals into mere mouthpieces of the spirit of the time. Did you not yourself to a certain extent fall into the diplomatic error, like your Franz von Sickingen, of placing the, Lutheran-knightly opposition above the plebeian Munzer opposition?  Further, the characters are lacking in character. I exclude Charles V, Balthasar and Richard of Trier. Was there ever a time of more impressive characters than the 16th century? Hutten, I think, is too much just a representative of “inspiration” and this is boring. Was he not at the same time an ingenious person of devilish wit, and have you not therefore done him a great injustice?”

“Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle; Problems Of Revolutionary Tragedy: Marx And Engels To Ferdinand Lassalle On His Drama Franz Von Sickingen Transcribed By Alliance From: “Marx And Engels On Literature And Art”; Moscow; 1976

Both Marx and Engels thought that the best art was distinct from propaganda. The latter depicts people acting as “mouthpieces.” But the best art while being very realistic and true to life, did not need to “itself offer a direct solution of the problem involved” or “even without at times ostensibly taking sides.”

(4) What Paintings  did Engels, Lenin and Stalin Admire?

Some indication has been given of this from the references of Marx and Engels in literature already cited, but there is far less regarding the visual arts.

I have not dealt with Stalin’s literary preferences as Bill has already dealt with this in his article Stalin and the Arts []. 

But since this talk is more about the visual arts, and a picture is worth a thousand words, I would like to show the favourite paintings as far as we know, of Engels and Stalin. We have some indication of their preferences in this regard, but none of either Lenin or Marx.

(i) Frederick Engels: Karl Hubner: “The Silesian Weavers”


The example that we know of for Engels, is vividly described by him in an article.

Engels clearly has absolutely no compunction about highlighting a picture that is both partisan and highly emotional.

These are two of the very elements that bourgeois ideologues find most repugnant about socialist realism:

“Let me on this occasion mention a painting by one of the best German painters, Karl Hubner, which has made a more effectual Socialist agitation than a hundred pamphlets might have done. It represents some Silesian weavers bringing linen cloth to the manufacturer, and contrasts very strikingly cold-hearted wealth on one side, and despairing poverty on the other. The well-fed manufacturer is represented with a face as red and unfeeling as brass, rejecting a piece of cloth which belongs to a woman; the woman, seeing no chance of selling the cloth, is sinking down and fainting, surrounded by her two little children, and hardly kept up by an old Man; a clerk is looking over a piece, the owners of which are with painful anxiety waiting for the result; a young man shows to his desponding mother the scanty wages he has received for his labour; an old man, a girl, and a boy, are sifting on a stone bench, and waiting for their turn; and two men, each with a piece of rejected cloth on his back, are just leaving the room, one of whom is clenching his fist in rage, whilst the other, putting his hand on his neighbour’s arm, points up towards heaven, as if saying: be quiet, there is a judge to punish him. This whole scene is going on in a cold and un-homely-looking lobby, with a stone floor: only the manufacturer stands upon a piece of carpeting; whilst on the other side of the painting, behind a bar, a view is opened into a luxuriously furnished counting-house, with splendid curtains and looking-glasses, where some clerks are writing, undisturbed by what is passing behind them,. and where the manufacturer’s son, a young, dandy-like gentleman, is leaning over the bar, with a horsewhip in his hand, smoking a cigar, and coolly looking at the distressed weavers. The painting has been exhibited in several towns of Germany, and, of course, prepared a good many minds for Social ideas. At the same time, we have had the triumph of seeing the first historical painter of this country, Charles Lessing, become a convert to Socialism.”

Frederick Engels: “Rapid Progress of Communism in Germany”; First Printed In: The New Moral World No. 25, December 13, 1844; In Collected Works; Volume 4; Moscow; 1975; pp. 229-233

(ii) V.I. Lenin

It is not known what Lenin’s favourite painting was. But it is known that he detested “Futurism,” and “incomprehensible art.”

Here is Vladmir Tatlin’s “Model of the Monument to the Third International 1920”:


Everything we do know about Lenin’s views on art, are quite consistent with those of Stalin:

“All Lenin’s recorded utterances on art at this time suggest he approved the traditional and deplored the formally innovative. In February 1921, on a midnight visit to Varya Armand (the daughter of the revolutionary Inessa Armand), who was studying art in Moscow, Lenin became involved in a discussion with a group of art students in their hostel.These students recognised ‘nothing to the right of constructivism’ in art; but among their number was one student (a Siberian whose name, for one reason or another, has not come down to us) who made realistic works:’

“This,” says Lenin, “I understand. This is comprehensible to me, and comprehensible to you, and comprehensible to a worker and to everyone else.”‘

Similarly, in his most extended reported discourse on art, a conversation with Klara Tsetkin, he reportedly called for an art that was ‘comprehensible to the masses’.

This comprehensibility appears to have signified, in Lenin’s mind, a kind of party-oriented reportage; discussing the Soviet cinema, which he regarded as the most important art form (this was, in fact, a prescient and not at all conventional view circa 1920), Lenin emphasised the importance of documentary films, stating that ‘the production of new films, imbued with Communist ideas, reflecting Soviet actuality, should begin with the newsreel’.”

Matthew Cullerne Bown; “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven 1998; p. 62.

It was very soon after this time, that Lenin began a counter-attack on the ultra-leftism of the Proletkult (See

(iii) J.V.Stalin: Ilya Repin: “Zaporozhe Cossacks Write a letter to Tartar King”

repin75As described by Brown, Stalin was impressed by Repin, but espeically this picture:

“Picture depicts Cossacks writing a rude and rebellious letter to the Turkish Sultan in reply to his demands for their capitulation. The Cossacks are collectively splitting their sides in anticipation of the Sultan’s reaction…. Stalin wrote modestly leaving the exhibition in the visitor’s book: ”Was at the exhibition. Generally in my opinion good”

Matthew Culhearne Brown; “Art Under Stalin”; New York; 1991; p. 56.

(iv) W.B. Bland: Diego Rodriguez De Silva y Velazquez: “Pope Innocennzo X.”

While not in any way attempting to elevate Bland to the levels of the Marxist-Leninists discussed in this article, it is nonetheless appropriate in a memorial on Bill, to ask what were some of his favourite paintings? Bland’s relation to his leaders, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Hoxha, is a matter for history and deeper analysis.

However – In Bill’s house in Ilford, the walls were hung with a variety of impressionist painting, including Van Gogh’s “Chair and boots”; “Sunflowers.” There was also a small reproduction of Degas’s statuette of the Dancer. He lived by himself, and these articles certainly reflected his own taste.

Diego Rodriguez De Silva y Velazquez: “Pope Innocennzo X.”

Diego Velazquez-538583

On the back of a postcard sent to me, of this painting Bland wrote: “I think this portrait (on loan here at present) is one of the finest I have ever seen”;

(5) Was Good Art Made in the USSR?

In this format, it is impossible to give a full and comprehensive history of USSR painting.

However we cna give some some indication, that all range of contents dealing with human life was depicted with vivid realism and accuracy. A range of paintings will be presented as examples.

Even Anatol Lunacharskii, who at times wavered in his views, as the Commissar for enlightenment, declared himself in favour of realism; despite his pull towards the futurist leftist tendency.

In 1919 Lunarchaskii appealed in “The Artistic Task of Soviet Power’  that:

‘The central content … is the struggle for socialism and the socialist ideal itself”;
Cited Matthew Cullerne Bown; “Socialist Realist Painting”; New Haven 1998;   p. 54.

How well did the artists respond?  Flipping through the excellent publiction by Matthew Cullerne Bown, “Socialist Realist Painting” published by Yale in 1998, we can readily see some extremely wonderful works. The illustrations below are all drawn from that work.

In terms of the ‘Iconic State Art’ that was discussed earlier, perhaps the first memorable piece was that of Isaak Brodski – who was introduced to Lenin by Lunacharskii as follows:

“From an ethical and political point of view the artist Brodskii merits complete trust’;

Cited Bown M.C. Ibid; p. 57.

Thereafter an immense painting “The Ceremonial Opening of the Second Congress of the Third International” [350×550 cm] was shown in 1924. Of the 218 delegates from 67 parties, Brodski made 125 portraits, combining these into the picutre.  Each individual delegate – including Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin – are recognisable.


In the meantime, while he was working away on this massive scale, he painted Lenin and Trotsky. 

It is not recorded as far as I can find, that Trotsky modestly declined to have his picture painted. Indeed Trotsky urged that Lenin be depicted, as did Krasin (Bown Ibid p. 56).

In a later march of the Ultra-leftists of the AKhR, Brodski was driven out:

“AKhR began a purge of its own ranks in 1928. The bete-noir of the young activists was the arch-traditionalist Brodksi. In a declaration issued at the time of the May 1928 Congress, they called for a struggle with ‘photo-naturalism – Broskiism’. Brodskii was driven out fo the AKhR; soon afterwards he was followed buy the painter of Russian hisotricla scences Gavriil Gorelov – hounded out becassue in 1927 he had aprticiated in the decoration of a church – and by Leningrad apinter Mikhail Avilov.”

Cullerne Bown Ibid; p. 115.

An early example of an artistically exaggerated perspective, one that enhanced an overall realism is that of Kustodiev B.M. “A Bolshevik’; 1920 [101×141 cm].
In my view, tihs illustrates nicely the distinction between “Realism” and “Naturalism.”


Kustodiev was previous to this picture, better known for nudes and portraits. He became a respected member of the arts community, and exhibited both with ultra-leftists from the Protekult and other groups. He remained unaligned.

The difficulties of daily life were portrayed with unflinching realisms as in Savitski’s G,K. “The year 1919’; 63×43 cm].


An example of a “realism” that was quite novel – and “anti-naturalism” – in its depiction of stark cold plain background was Alexander A Deineka’s “The Defence of Petrograd”; 1927 (218×354 cm);


Although not a member of the AKhRR, Deineka was invited to show at the 10th exhibiton of AKh RR, and this painting was “considered the star of the
exhibition” Cullerne Bown Ibid; p. 77.

He studied workers’ movements in the factory for hours at times before a picture, and he was fascinated by “rhythm.” This can be seen above.

As well can seen sharp contrasts – “the struggle of white and black elements in graphics” – as expounded by Vladimir Favorski.

Deineka was a bridge between the graphics of the socialist poster and the canvas art of Socialist Realism.

Later commentators would remark on the multi-spatial dimension (Two lines of soldiers – before and after the revolution) – as a “paradigm of the “dialectical-materialist” approach to painting.”; Cited Culleren Bown Ibid; p. 95.

The new life under sociailism was depicted as being a wide open avenue along which a young lady could drive a car towards the city, by Yuri I Pimenov “New Moscow”; in 1937 [140×170 cm].


The image of “A Partisan” by Sergei V Malyutin 1936 [100×150 cm] is deceptively simple. With intense focus on the man, the rutted snow behind shows how this man will travel on guard for danger.


While George C Nisski’s “Sebastopol – The Meeting”;(1935 77×101 cm) shows with luminescent colouring, an age-old scene of boy meets girl. With the kicker of a bunch of mates in the background no doubt good humouredly – but perhaps slightly jealously? – watching their comrade’s good fortune.


The natural beauty of the world, was not lost on artists in the USSR of socialist realism, as a famous impressionist artist, Aleksandr M Gerasimov shows in “An Orchard in Blossom”; (1935; 124×133 cm).


With the War years of course, the emphasis changed, and the war reality and bravery of the USSR people was shown clearly. Despite the privations of the war, painting went on. Exhibitions were once more held from 1942, and one, “Leningrad in the Days of the Patriotic War,” held ins the still besieged city, drew:

“weak, scarcely moving people .. to our cold exhibition hall .. carrying their most recent works”;
Bown M.C. Cited Ibid; p.216.

To be singled out are perhaps Sergei V. Gerasimov’s “The Mother of  a Partisan” (1943 184×232 cm); 


And once more the work of Alexsandr A Deineka, whose rapid movement in “The Defence of Sebastopol” (1942 200×400 cm) makes the canvas appear cinematic. This is helped by the unusual horizontal canvas shape, a “wide angle” frame. The naked figure on the far left hurling a grenade swirls into the dressed sailor brandishing a piece of fencing as defence, who in turn is thrown into the distant sailor wielding a rifle in hand-to-hand combat.


Naturally again the emphasis would shift after the war, to once more depict the life of the people. “Galya of the Birds” by Pavel F Globa [1950 137×201 cm] is very far from the image that is presented by the bourgeoisie of socialist Realism. As for A.M.Gerasimov, it would not be very far-fetched to think of this in an exhibition of the Impressionists.



Contrary to received wisdom, Stalin’s views, and personal preferences in art were not at all dissimilar to those of Marx and Engels and Lenin.

He was not the moving force behind the plethora of bad propagandist art that was seen in the late period of the USSR. Undoubted distortions occurred, and need further exploration. However, Ultra-leftist trends were supported by a combination of misguided honest elements, and hidden revisionists. 

Nonetheless, the era of Socialist art covered a number of trends over the period 1917-1953, and undoubtedly has left future progressive artists and peoples a lasting legacy of extraordinary art. 

Whether it is to everyone’s taste is another matter. But then – not everyone is a supporter of socialism. I submit, that the art of that era is more consistent with people’s views than the modern art collected by the Saatchi’s of this world.


Bill Bland: Stalin & the Arts – On Marxist-Leninist Aesthetics

Vera Mukhina: Monument to Collectivisation

Vera Mukhina: Monument to Collectivisation

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #53, “Aesthetics and Revolution – Essays and Talks.”


This talk was given by Bill Bland to the ‘Stalin Society’ in 1993. He later expanded this talk in some detail, into the manuscript here.

It gives a history of Socialist Realism in the society of its birth – the Soviet Union.
It also depicts leftist-revisionist strands in art policy in the USSR.

In part Alliance has discussed these revisionist elements before (See Alliance 7 on Ultra-leftism in the Communist Academy & Proletkult: at:

But Bill’s analysis goes much further than this, and he comprehensively covers many of the usual controversies as thrown out by liberal aesthetes, who charge Stalin with having “killed the arts and artists.”

As a talk, slide and tape cues are given. This version does not include the musical clips, but does include some slide clips as used by Bland in his talk. Missing segments are indicated. As far as possible, pictures of slides are credited with the web-source from where they were derived.

Editors Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America)
August 2004


ART is a form of production in which the producer (the artist strives by his product (the work of art) to create certain thoughts or feelings in the minds of its consumers.

A product which is exclusively artistic and has no other significant function is termed fine art. A product which is primarily functional may be secondarily a work of art if its producer has been concerned not merely with its function but also with creating certain thoughts of feelings in the minds of its users. Such art is termed applied art.

The content of a work of art is its subject.

The form of a work of art is the manner or style in which the artist has presented the content of his work of art.

Realism is a trend in art which seeks to represent its subject faithfully and truthfully.

An artist is a member of society, so that the art of a particular time and place cannot but be influenced by the social environment existing in that time and place.

When and where a particular a social system is in harmony with the needs of the mass of the people, the prevailing thought tends to be rational, favourable to science and optimistic, while the prevailing art tends to be realistic.

When and where a particular social system has outlived its usefulness to the majority of the people, the prevailing thought tends to be irrational, unfavourable to science and pessimistic while the prevailing art tends to be unrealistic, tends to degenerate into a greater or lesser degree of abstraction.



Thus, in Europe in the late Middle Ages, when the long-established social system of feudalism was in decline, the prevailing art was typically Byzantine in style — like this altar-piece by Margaritone of Arezzo* in the National Gallery, painted in the late 13th century. Painting from real life had by this time come to be regarded as heretical, and artists tended to confine themselves to making copies of works of art previously approved by the Church. Thus, Byzantine art tended to be flat and lifeless.

Then, in the 14th century, above all in Italy, the embryonic capitalist class began to exert its influence, giving rise to that flowering of science, art and culture we call the Renaissance.



The difference between this picture by Caravaggio* and the previous one by Margaritone is not just a matter of improved technique, the use of light and shade, the mastery of perspective. The main difference is that it is no longer based on previous works of art; it is painted from life and it glows with realism.



This sumptuous portrait of the Doge of Venice, by Giovanni Bellini*, conveys with realism all the pomp and prosperity of the wealthy state of Venice.

Most sitters of the Renaissance and the rising embryonic capitalist class felt self-confident, and did not demand that painters prettified them. Thus, Oliver Cromwell* ordered the painter Peter Lely* to paint him “warts and all.”



And this sitter no doubt gave the same instructions to her painter.



In the 17th century we find Dutch painters like Pieter De Hoochpainting realistically the interiors of bourgeois houses like this, in which he expresses his joy in painting sunlight. The figure standing before the fireplace was an afterthought added to improve the design of the grouping, and that is why the black-and-white tiles of the floor can be seen through the woman’s skirt.

But when a social system ceases to serve the interests of the majority of the people — for example, in France in the years immediately preceding the French Revolution of 1792 sensitive artists, other than conscious revolutionaries, find reality too unpleasant and sordid to portray realistically, so that they tend to reject realism in favour of falsity.



Jean Fragonard* was court painter at Versailles in the years just prior to the French Revolution. This painting, “The Swing,” is typical of the artificiality of his work. The decadent court is concealed in a completely false world of eternal youth and perpetual pleasure, of endless summer filled with laughter and the scent of flowers.

In the twentieth century, capitalism reached the stage of imperialism, where it became ever more clearly contrary to the interests of the mass of the people.

In such a period, revolutionary artists make use of realism to further the revolutionary cause. But the honest, sensitive artist who is not a revolutionary, who sees no way out of existing social problems, finds reality too painful to portray, and consequently moves away from realism.

Even in the 19th century, artists like William Turner* began to sense the poverty and exploitation which lay behind the surface of Victorian prosperity, and to move away from realism.



In this late picture by Turner of a train crossing a viaduct, the train is not the realistic assembly of gleaming pistons which would have brought joy to the heart of George Stephenson*. The train is no more than an impression, lost in the wild rush of colour of the elements and the steam from the engine.

Today capitalism has been in increasing decay for almost a century.

Britain, once the workshop of the world, has been turned into an industrial museum; some four million people are out of work and school-leavers face the prospect of spending all their lives on social security; in the heart of London, thousands of people are forced to sleep in the open air winter and summer . . .

So, with the coming of imperialism, which is capitalism in its final stage, capitalism in decay, reality became uglier still, and honest, sensitive artists who are not socialists reject even the impression of reality.

Among the many non-realistic artistic trends which arose in the 20th century is Cubism, associated particularly with the name of Picasso.



In later Cubism the image is first cut up into geometrical forms, then these are shifted around. In this portrait by Picasso, all we can recognise are fragmentary aspects of the sitter’s waistcoat and face drowned in chaos.



Another 20th century non-realistic artistic trend was Surrealism, allegedly based on the unconscious mind, the dreams of which are declared to be more real than objective reality. The Spanish-born painter Salvador Dali* deserted Cubism for Surrealism. His paintings — like this one, entitled “Suburbs of the Paranoic-Critical Town” — are naturalistic in appearance, but with objects in the weirdest juxtaposition — a temple, an armchair, a horse’s skull and a girl with a bunch of grapes.

Of course, this movement from realism is not confined to the visual arts.

In the theatre, for instance, it has produced a whole trend known as “the Theatre of the Absurd.” Here “absurd” is used in the sense of “incongruous,” “illogical,” “contrary to reason.” It is often humorous, but its humour comes not from satire on real life, but from incongruity. It is the humour of “Monty Python.” It portrays life and the world as senseless and meaningless:

“The Theatre of the Absurd is . . . part of the ‘anti-literary’ movement of our time, which has found its expression in abstract painting.”

(Martin J. Esslin: ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’; Harmondsworth; 1977; p. 26).

A milestone in the development of “the Theatre of the Absurd” was the play “Waiting for Godot,” written in French by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett*, and first published in Paris in 1952.

The play is set in a country lane where two tramps are waiting for a mysterious person called Godot. As they wait, they converse in the manner of cross-talk comedians on the variety stage. Eventually a boy arrives and tells them that Godot is not coming that day. In the second act, they continue to talk as they wait for Godot, and again the boy comes to tell them that Godot won’t be coming.

As one eminent critic has put it: “Waiting for Godot” is a play in which nothing happens — twice!

Here are the last few lines of the play:


“Vladimir: We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow….. Unless Godot comes. Estragon: And if he comes?
Vladimir: We’ll be saved.
Estragon: Well? Shall we go?
Vladimir: Pull on your trousers.
Estragon: What?
Vladimir: Pull on your trousers.
Estragon: You want me to pull off my trousers?
Vladimir: Pull ON your trousers.
Estragon: True.
Vladimir: Well? Shall we go?
Estragon: Yes, let’s go”.
(Samuel Beckett: ‘En attendant Godot, piece en deux actes’; London; 1966; p. 88).

They do not move, and the curtain falls.

The American playwright William Saroyan*, who greatly admires the play, says:

“The play is about nothing. All is nothing. All comes to nothing.”

(William Saroyan: ‘A Few Words about Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”‘: Record Sleeve).

In the field of music, the retreat from realism has taken the form of atonality. If you listen to this scale –


— something is clearly missing. We are left hanging in the air, unsatisfied, waiting for ‘the other shoe’ to drop. Tonality is a system of relations between tones having a tonic or central pitch as its most important element. In atonal music, all sense of key or resting place is lost. There are no longer “consonances” and “dissonances,” but only varying degrees of dissonance.

Here is a piece of modern atonal music — “Duo for Two Violins in the Sixth-Tone System,” by the Czech composer Alois Haba*.


Atonal composers say that in rejecting tonality, they are liberating music from restrictions. Yet Bach, Beethoven and Mozart did not feel restricted by tonality.

The fact is that, unlike the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, who did not feel themselves restricted by tonality, this kind of music fails to move listeners. It does not do so — it is unloved — because it has rejected melody, it has rejected realism.

What limits modern composers is not tonality, but paucity of ideas.

In some respects, the music of composers like Haba has its counterpart in the junk music of “pop.”

Here is an extract of a group called “The Swirlies” playing a piece called “Blondatonaudiobaton” — whatever that may mean.


It is not accidental that pop concerts have become associated with drugs — for the music itself (if one can call it that) has many of the characteristics of a drug.

Capitalism in decay survives by means of the old Roman policy of “Divide and Rule” — by dividing black from white, office worker from manual worker, Protestant from Catholic, and — as in the case of “pop music” — young from old. Indeed,, in a society where there is hopeless mass unemployment the ideal young person is one who is too stoned to do anything more than stagger down to the chemist’s and collect his methodone.

As George Melly*, puts it, pop is:

“. . . based on the corruption of standards deliberately engineered by skilful vested interests for their own gain. . . .Pop is in many ways an ersatz culture feeding off its own publicity….It draws no conclusions. It makes no comments. It proposes no solutions.”

(George Melly: ‘Revolt into Style: The Pop Arts in Britain’; Harmondsworth; 1972; p. 6, 7).


Aesthetics is the science of quality in art.

Marx, Engels and Lenin did not develop a thoroughgoing theory of aesthetics, and even their passing comments on the subject were not systematically investigated until the 1930s.

After the Russian Socialist Revolution of November 1917, in the absence of any authoritative guidelines, all kinds of artistic trends flowered, including many from the West.

“Proletarian Culture” (1920-24)

There was general agreement in Soviet Russia that culture in a socialist state, a state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, should be “proletarian culture.” But there was no agreement as to what ‘proletarian culture’ should consist of.

One influential view was that put forward by Aleksandr Bogdanov*, who became the leader of the “Proletarian Cultural and Educational Associations,” (Proletkult), formed in September 1917.

The leaders of Proletkult held that “proletarian culture” must be a new, specially created culture:

“Its (Proletkult’s — Ed.) members actually denied the cultural legacy of the past… isolated themselves from life and aimed at setting up a special ‘proletarian culture.'”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; Moscow; 1974; p. 567).

They also demanded that there should be no leadership of Proletkult by the Party:

“Proletkult continued to insist on independence, thus setting itself in opposition to the proletarian state.”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin; ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 567)

Lenin was strongly opposed to Bogdanov’s conception of “proletarian culture,” insisting that it should be a natural development of all that was best in previous world culture:

“Marxism . . . has . . . assimilated and refashioned everything of value in the more than two thousand years of the development of human thought and culture. Only further work on this basis and in this direction . . . can be recognised as the development of a genuine proletarian culture.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On Proletarian Culture’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 317).

“Only a precise knowledge and transformation of the culture created by the entire development of mankind will enable us to create a proletarian culture. The latter . . . is not an invention of those who call themselves experts in proletarian culture. That is all nonsense. Proletarian culture must be the logical development of the store of knowledge mankind has accumulated under the yoke of capitalist, landowner and bureaucratic society.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Tasks of the Youth Leagues’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 287).

Lenin further demanded that:

“. . . all Proletkult organisations . . . accomplish their tasks under the general guidance of the Soviet authorities (specifically of the People’s Commissariat of Education) and of the Russian Communist Party.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘On Proletarian Culture’ (October 1920), in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p. 317).

The Proletkult organisations declined in the 1920s:

” . . . ceasing to exist in 1932.”

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 31; ibid.; p.567).

The Period of Party Neutrality in Aesthetics (1925-1932)

In May 1925 Stalin put forward a view which expressed the basis of an objective Marxist-Leninist aesthetic — that proletarian culture should be socialist in content and national in form:

“Proletarian culture . . . is socialist in content . . . national in form.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 7; Moscow; 1954; p. 140).

However, the leadership of the Party rejected the conception of aesthetics put forward by Stalin, and in June 1925 adopted:

“…a rambling, repetitious, verbose and pompous document.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘The Proletarian Episode in Russian Literature: 1928-1932’; New York; 1935)(hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown (1935)’); p. 43).

This resolution was entitled “On the Policy of the Party in the Field of Literature,” and declared the Party’s neutrality between aesthetic trends:

“The Party can in no way bind itself in adherence to any one direction in the sphere of artistic form. . . . All attempts to bind the Party to one direction at the present phase of cultural development of the country must be firmly rejected.
Therefore the Party must pronounce in favour of free competition between the various groupings and streams in this sphere. . . .Similarly unacceptable would be the passing of a decree or party decision awarding a legal monopoly in matters of literature and publishing to some group or literary organisation, . . . for this would mean the destruction of proletarian literature.”

(Resolution of CC, RCP, ‘On the Party’s Policy in the Field of Literature’ (July 1925), in: C. Vaughan James: ‘Soviet Socialist Realism’; London; 1973; p;. 118, 119).

Edward J. Brown* comments:

“As a result of that liberal policy, the years from 1921 to 1932 saw the growth of a literature in Russia which is thoroughly congenial to the tastes of Western intellectuals.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘Russian Literature since the Revolution’; London; 1963 (hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown (1963)’; p. 23).

The adoption of this “liberal” attitude towards aesthetics was due to the fact that the Party leadership at this time was dominated by revisionists, by concealed opponents of socialism. The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party elected after the 13th Congress of the Party in June 1924 consisted of (in alphabetical order):

Nikolay I. Bukharin*,
Lev B. Kamenev*;
Aleksey I. Rykov*;
Josef V. Stalin;
Mikhail P. Tomsky*;
Lev D. Trotsky*;
Grigory E. Zinoviev*.

(Leonard Schapiro: ‘The Communist Party of the Soviet Union’; London; 1960; p. 607).

The revisionist control over literature in the next period was exercised through the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), founded in 1920, which published the journal “On Literary Guard” from 1926 to 1932. RAPP was headed by the concealed Trotskyist Leopold Averbakh*, who exercised a virtual dictatorship over literature:

“Averbakh exercised a virtual dictatorship over early Soviet Russian literature.”

(Robert H. Stacy: ‘Russian Literary Criticism: A Short History’; New York; 1974; p. 196).

“Averbakh’s first book, published in 1923, had appeared with a preface by Trotsky.”

(Edward J. Brown (1963): op. cit.; p. 217).

“In 1937 Averbakh was unmasked as an agent of Trotsky, one whose errors formed a pattern of subversion in Soviet literature.”‘

(Norah Levin: ‘The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917: Paradoxes of Survival’, Volume 2; London; 1990; p. 863).

Averbakh was the brother-in-law of Genrikh Yagoda*, at this time Deputy Commissar for Internal Affairs, who later, in 1938, admitted in open court to treason:

“The main figure, Averbakh, had come under the protection of his relative by marriage, Yagoda. . . . Soon after Yagoda’s arrest, he (Averbakh — Ed.) was attacked as a Trotskyite.”

(Robert Conquest: ‘The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties’; Harmondsworth; 1971; p. 446).

“The RAPP leaders . . . were, shortly after the Moscow Trial of 1937, accused of having been themselves Trotskyists.”

(Edward J. Brown (1935): op. cit.; p. 223).

In the absence of any Party guidance on aesthetics, the Trotskyites in the leadership of RAPP caused great harm to Soviet literature during the period of their domination, partly by their sectarianism:

“Averbakh was sectarian and oppressively dogmatic in his treatment of literary questions.”

(Victor Terras: p. 29; ‘Handbook of Russian Literature’; New Haven (USA); 1985;)

For example, during the period of the First Five-Year Plan (1929-34) the leaders of RAPP decreed in 1930 that only literature which directly boosted the Plan should be published:

“‘Literature should help the Five-Year Plan’ was the slogan. . . .The depiction of the Five-Year Plan is the one and only problem of Soviet literature, proclaimed the organ of RAPP in 1930. . . .For about three years, the Five-Year Plan became the only subject of Soviet literature.”

(Gleb Struve: ‘Soviet Russian Literature’; London; 1935; p. 86, 229).

As might have been expected:

” . . . the result was a drying-up of the creative sources of Russian literature and a narrowing-down of its themes.”

(Gleb Struve: ibid.; p. 229).

Even more serious, the leaders of RAPP used their positions to persecute writers who attempted to follow a socialist line in their art — this extending even to such famous and outstanding artists as Maksim Gorky*, Mikhail Sholokhov* and Vladimir Mayakovsky*.

The Case of Maksim Gorky

The persecution of Maksim Gorky by the Soviet revisionists, particularly Grigory Zinoviev, became so serious that in 1921 Gorky was forced to leave Soviet Russia and move to Italy:

“His (Gorky’s –Ed.) relations with Zinoviev, the local dictator at Petrograd, became so strained that he left Russia in the autumn of 1921.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: ‘The Biographical Dictionary of the Former Soviet Union: Prominent People in All Fields from 1917 to the Present’; London; 1992; p. 157).

“Partly on account of his disagreements with the leading Bolsheviks (Zinoviev and Kamenev — Ed.). Gorky went abroad again in 1921.”

(Anthony K. Thorlby (Ed.): ‘Penguin Companion to Literature’, Volume 2; Harmondsworth; 1969; p. 325).

“Gorky did make a dire enemy of one of the new masters: Zinioviev.”

(Dan Levin: ‘Stormy Petrel: The Life and Work of Maksim Gorky’ London; 1967; p. 198).

in whose feud with Gorky:

“Zinoviev was supported by Kamenev. . . . It was the weakening of Gorky’s position in Soviet Russia, a growing sense of disillusionment and helplessness, that finally made him leave in 1921, not his health.”

(Dan Levin: ibid.; p. 210).

In 1928 the attacks on Gorky were taken up by the still concealed revisionists in the leadership of RAPP, headed by Averbakh. For example, in February 1928 Gorky was being depicted in the RAPP journal as:

“a man without class consciousness.”

(‘On Literary Guard’, February 1928; p. 94).

Averbakh’s attacks on Gorky in ‘On Literary Guard’ were echoed in the journal “The Present,” published by the Siberian writers’ association, which had been founded by Semyon Rodov* (formerly of the RAPP triumvirate). This journal described Gorky as:

“…a crafty, disguised enemy.”

(‘The Present’, Nos. 8 & 9, 1929, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 74).

“In tirades of mounting fury, Gorky was called a class enemy and said to be a protector of anti-Soviet elements.”

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p 74).

But by this time the exposure of the Opposition had reached the point where these attacks could be countered:

“At this point the Party stepped in with a resolution ‘On the Statement of Part of the Siberian Writers and Literary Organisations against Maksim Gorky.”‘

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 74).

and administered:

“a firm reprimand to the Communist fraction of the Siberian Proletkult.”

(C. Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 74).

During Gorky’s enforced absence abroad, Stalin continued to support him, writing to him, for example, in Italy in January 1930:

“I am told you need a physician from Russia, Is that so? Whom do you want? Let us know and we shall send him.”

(J. V. Stalin: Letter to Maksim Gorky, January 1930, in: ‘Works’, Volume 12; Moscow; 1955; p. 183).

But by 1931 the revisionists seemed to have been finally defeated, and Gorky felt it safe to return to the Soviet Union. He returned to Moscow in 1931 after the fall of his arch-enemy, Zinoviev. (Jeanne Vronskaya and Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit.; p. 157).


“. . the defeat of the Communist Opposition . . . must have seemed . . to Gorky the harbinger of unity. Zinoviev . . . had been Gorky’s arch-tormentor.”

(Dan Levin: op. cit.; p. 264).

But concealed revisionists continued to plot against Gorky. By utilising the services of medical members of the conspiracy, Genrikh Yagoda — who was Commissar for Internal Affairs from 1934 to 1936 — had arranged the murder of Gorky’s son, Maksim Peshkov, in 1934 and that of Gorky himself in 1936:

YAGODA: Yenukidze “. . . told me that the centre had decided to undertake a number of terrorist acts against members of the Political Bureau and, in addition, against Maksim Gorky personally. . . . Yenukidze explained to me that the ‘bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’ . . . regarded Gorky as a dangerous figure. Gorky was a staunch supporter of Stalin’s leadership, and in case the conspiracy was put into effect, he would undoubtedly raise his voice against us, the conspirators. . . .

VYSHINSKY: Do you admit being guilty of the murder of Alexey Maksimovich Gorky?

YAGODA: I do.”

(Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’; Moscow; 1938; p. 574, 577).

The physician Dmitry Pletnev told the Court:

“PLETNEV: No extraneous poisonous substances were introduced, but he (Gorky — Ed.) was subjected to a regime which was harmful. All the medicines were permissible, but in the individual case of Gorky they were harmful. . . .

VYSHINSKY: Formulate briefly the particulars of the plan which you drew up together with Levin (co-defendant physician Lev Levin — Ed.) for the killing of Aleksey Maksimovich Gorky.

PLETNEV: To tire out the organism and thus lower its power of resistance.

VYSHINSKY: For what purpose?

PLETNEV: To bring about Gorky’s death.”

(Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’; ibid.; p. 591, 593).

The Case of Mikhail Sholokhov

One of the finest Soviet novels is “The Quiet Don,” written in 1928-40 by the Cossack writer Mikhail Sholokhov who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for the work in 1965. An English translation of the novel was published in two parts, entitled respectively “Quiet Flows the Don” and “The Don Flows Home to the Sea.”

“The Quiet Don” is, above all:

“. . . a harsh denunciation of the policy pursued by the Trotskyites.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: ‘The Authorship of “The Quiet Don”‘; Oslo; 1984; p. 17).

among the Cossacks.

Almost immediately after the publication of the first volume of the novel in the journal “October” in 1929, rumours began to circulate that “The Quiet Don” was a plagiarism, that it had been written not by Sholokhov, but by someone else — the favourite candidate being another Cossack writer, Fedor Kryukov*:

“Rumours of plagiarism started to circulate as far back as 1928, simultaneously with the appearance of the first volume in the literary journal ‘October.”‘

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 15).

These rumours were, understandably, spread by

“. . . supporters of Trotsky. . . .Even if Trotsky at that time had left the Soviet Union, some of his earlier adherents were still in power. One of them was S. I. Syrtsov* (1893-1938), . . ., an eager supporter of Trotsky’s brutal policy towards the Cossacks.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 17).

As a result of these rumours,

“at the beginning of 1929, the editorial board (of ‘October’ — Ed.), decided to discontinue the publication of the novel.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 16).

Sholokhov protested to the Party newspaper “Pravda,” which organised a special commission, headed by the writer Aleksandr Serafimovich*, to investigate the allegations. To this body, Sholokhov submitted his manuscripts and notes.

“At the end of March 1929, ‘Pravda’ published a letter in which the charges against Sholokhov were refuted as ‘malicious slander’ spread by enemies of the proletarian dictatorship.”

(‘Pravda’, 29 March 1929; p. 4).

In January 1930 Sholokhov had a meeting with Stalin, on which he (Sholokhov) commented:

“The conversation was very profitable to me and encouraged me to put into practice new creative ideas.”

(Herman Ermolaev: ‘Mikhail Sholokhov and his Art’; Princeton (USA); 1982 (herafter listed as ‘Herman Ermolkav (1982); p. 29).

By 1934, as we have seen [Editor: See prior writings via the Index pages of Alliance], the Soviet state security organs had come under the control of concealed revisionists, and in 1938:

“the NKVD began a large-scale operation against Sholokhov.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): ibid.; p. 41).

Sholokhov was accused of:

“preparing an uprising of the . . . Cossacks against the Soviet regime.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p. 41).

In October 1938, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU carried out an investigation, in which Stalin played a leading role, into the charges against Sholokhov. These were found to be groundless. Sholokhov said in 1969 that:

” . . . Stalin looked closely into everything, and all the accusations against me were smashed to smithereens.”

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p;., 42).

In the 1960s the charges of plagiarism against Sholokhov were renewed by the historian Roy Medvedev*, who admitted that:

“. . . it is a fact that Fedor Kryukov’s son was among the Cossacks who emigrated to the west and he never made any claims against Sholokhov. No such claims were made anywhere in emigre Cossack literature.”

(Roy A. Medvedev: ‘Problems in the Literary Biography of Mikhail Sholokhov’; Cambridge; 1966 (hereafter listed as ‘Roy A. Medvedev (1966)’; p. 204).

Nevertheless, Medevedev concluded:

“While we must refrain as yet from any definitive solutions and conclusions, the mass of new data seems to us to speak in favour of the now familiar theory of the double authorship of ‘The Quiet Don.'”

(Roy A. Medvedev (1966): op. cit.; p.

The main reason presented for this conclusion was the view that:

“. . . Sholokhov was too young to have produced such a mature piece of work.”

(Roy A. Medvedev (1966): op. cit.; p. 202).

In 1974 the charges of plagiarism against Sholokhov were revived in an anonymous pamphlet published in Paris, with a foreword by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn*. The pamphlet, in Russian, was entitled ‘The Current of ‘The Quiet Don’: Riddles of the Novel.” Reviving the old, discredited slanders of the 1920s, it claimed that:

“the bulk of ‘The Quiet Don’ had been written not by Mikhail Sholokhov, but by… Fedor Kryukov.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit.; p. 7).

A more recent study, published in 1982 by the American expert Herman Ermolaev*, based on computer textual analysis of the work of Sholokhov and Kryukov, concludes that:

“no evidence has so far been presented to show that Sholokhov utilised someone else’s imaginative work for writing ‘The Quiet Don’. Until there is convincing evidence to the contrary, Sholokhov ought to be treated as the sole author of ‘The Quiet Don.”‘

(Herman Ermolaev (1982): op. cit.; p. 300).

Similar computer textual analysis also compelled Geir Kjetsaa et al. to conclude in 1984 that:

“the use of mathematical statistics permits us to exclude the possibility of Kryukov having written the novel, whereas Sholokhov cannot be excluded as the author.”

(Geir Kjetsaa et al: op. cit. p. 152).

The Case of Vladimir Mayakovsky

The poet Vladimir Mayakovsky is regarded as:

“the real troubadour of the Revolution.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.): ‘Mayakovsky’; London; 1965 (henceforth listed as ‘Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965)’); p. 18).

He wrote poems on topical matters, in ordinary everyday language, and travelled from town to town and village to village, reciting them.

In April 1930 Mayakovsky committed suicide by shooting himself, leaving a note. The story was widely spread that he had:

“committed suicide because of a romantic and unfortunate love affair.”

(Gleb Struve: op. cit.; p. 167).

Indeed, the official report of the investigation into his death his death (issued less than 24 hours after his death) was at pains to deny that death was connected with his social or literary activity:

“The preliminary data of the investigation show that the suicide was due to causes of a purely personal character, having nothing to do with the social or literary activity of the poet.”

(‘Pravda’, 15 April 1930, in: Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965): op. cit.; p. 28-29).

But, as Shakespeare expressed it:

“Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.”

(William Shakespeare: ‘As You like it’, Act 4, Scene 1, in: ‘The Complete Works’, Feltham; 1979; p. 226).

In fact, it was in October 1929 that Mayakovsky was informed that the girl he thought himself in love with — Tatiana Yalovleva*, the daughter of a White Russian emigrant living in Paris — had married someone else:

“In October Lilya Brik* received a letter from her sister Elsa (Elsa Triolet* — Ed.)…’Tatyana has got married.”‘

(A. D. P. Briggs: ‘Vladimir Mayakovsky: A Tragedy’; Oxford; 1979; p. 114).

His suicide occurred only in April of-the following year — six months later — so that one must agree with Helen Muchnic when she declares:

“It is absurd to think, as some have done, that he ‘died for love’ in the sentimentally romantic sense.”

(Helen Muchnic: ‘From Gorky to Pasternak: Six Writers in Soviet Russia’; New York; 1961; p. 263).

It is clear that some event or events must have occurred in the spring of 1930 which were more immediate causes of his suicide.

In fact. in February 1930, with the aim of bringing himself closer to his audience, Mayakovsky had joined the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP):

“Mayakovsky joined RAPP in order to get closer to his workers’ auditorium.”

(Viktor B. Shklovsky: ‘0 Mayakovskom’ (On Mayakovsky); Moscow; 1940; p. 215).

But, as we have seen, RAPP had fallen under the control of a gang of concealed revisionists, headed by Leopold Averbakh, who exerted a reactionary dictatorship over the arts. Thus, in joining RAPP:

“Mayakovsky . . . fell into a dead sea.”

(Viktor B. Shklovsky: ibid.; p. 215).

Averbakh and his bureaucratic cronies made it clear that Mayakovsky was a far from welcome recruit to RAPP. They insisted that he required ‘re-education in proletarian ideology’, making him feel isolated and depressed:

“There is no doubt that he felt his own increasing isolation and sensed the cloud of disapproval that in fact hung over him….The bureaucrats in control of RAPP…did not very much want him in their organisation.

Mayakovsky was not warmly welcomed in RAPP and…in this mass organisation he felt isolated and alone….From February until April 1930 the secretariat of RAPP constantly hauled Mayakovsky over the coals in a trivial and didactic fashion….From the moment of his entry until his suicide, the ‘secretariat’ of that organisation occupied itself with ‘re-educating’ him in the spirit of proletarian ideology, and literature, a truly depressing experience. Some people recalled that on the eve of his suicide…he was in a state of defenceless misery as a result of his sessions with the talentless dogmatists and petty literary tyrants whose organisation he had joined.”

(Edward J. Brown: ‘Mayakovsky: A Poet in the Revolution’; Princeton (USA): 1973 (hereafter listed as ‘Edward J. Brown; (1973)’); p. 362-63, 366, 367).

“The whole set of vindictive attacks on Mayakovsky, of all people, on the ground of insufficient closeness to and concern for the masses – arguments that read so absurdly at this distance of time, but which then momentarily hounded and isolated him — bear the smell precisely of those methods. Mayakovsky was indirectly the victim of the same hands that later directly slew the great Soviet writer of the generation that preceded him, Gorky.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.): ‘Mayakovsky and his Poetry’; London; 1945 (hereafter listed as ‘Herbert Marshall (Ed,): 1945’); p. 6).

When “An Exhibition of the Life and Work of Mayakovsky” took place in Moscow in February and in Leningrad in March, it:

“was boycotted by official and unofficial bodies, poets and critics; more and more bitter and scathing attacks were being made on him.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965); p. 23).

RAPP’s attacks on Mayakovsky continued — intensified — after his death:

“The cloud that had settled over Mayakovsky’s reputation during the last years of his life was not dispelled by his senseless death.”

(Edward J. Brown (Ed.) (1963): op. cit.; p. 369).

“They hounded him also after his death. His works only appeared in restricted editions, no new works published, no research, no production of his plays, his books and portraits were removed from libraries.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1965); p. 39).

“For a time after Mayakovsky’s death, RAPP’s clique, by exploiting his suicide, even succeeded in hindering the publication of his works, delaying the opening of his museum, and removing his name from the school curricula.”

(Herbert Marshall (Ed.) (1945); p. 6).

When Elsa Triolet attended the Writers’ Congress in Moscow in 1934, she complained to “one of these petty bureaucrats” about the neglect of Mayakovsky in the Soviet Union and was told:

“There’s a cult of Mayakovsky, and we’re fighting against that cult.”

(Elsa Triolet: ‘Mayakovsky: Poet of Russia’, in: ‘New Writing’, New Series 3; London; 1.939; p. 222-23).

On Stalin’s initiative, as we shall see, RAPP was liquidated in April 1932.
In 1935 Lilya and Osip Brik* wrote to Stalin to complain of the neglect of Mayakovsky in the Soviet Union. (Edward J. Brown (Ed.) (1973); p. 370).

Stalin replied promptly:

“Mayakovsky was and remains the finest, most talented poet of our Soviet age. Indifference to his memory and his works is a crime.”

(J. V. Stalin, in: A. D. P. Briggs: op. cit.; p. 121-22).

As a result of Stalin’s initiative, Mayakovsky’s prestige was immediately restored:

“At once things began to happen, Mayakovsky’s ashes were re-interred in a place of honour alongside the remains of Gogol. Statues of the poet sprang up everywhere. His works were reissued and translated.”

(D. P. Briggs: op. cit.; p. 122).

One final point: the Trotskyist revisionists who drove Mayakovsky to his death plead not guilty to the crime. The American Trotskyist Max Eastman*, for example, cannot deny Mayakovsky’s talent nor the role of Averbakh and his gang in his persecution, so he simply inverts the truth by presenting Averbakh as:

“the young adjutant of Stalin.”

(Max Eastman: ‘Artists in Uniform: A Study of Literature and Bureaucratism’; London; 1934; p. 35).


The Reformation of the Artistic Organisation (1932)

We have seen that in 1924 Stalin was the only Marxist-Leninist on the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This situation was rectified by a carefully planned strategy of cooperating with the less dangerous revisionists in the leadership in order to remove the more dangerous. As a result of this strategy, the Political Bureau elected after the 17th Congress of the CPSU in February 1934 consisted of (in alphabetical order):

Andrey Andreyev*;

Lazar Kaganovich*;

Mikhail Kalinin*;

Sergey Kirov*;

Stanislav Kosior*v

Valerian Kuibyshev*;

Vyacheslav Molotov*;

Grigory Ordzhonikidze*

Josef Stalin;

Kliment Voroshi1ov*.

(Leonard Schapiro: op. cit.; p. 607).

That is, it was composed of eight Marxist-Leninists and two still concealed revisionists. Thus, by the 1930s Marxist-Leninists had won majority of the seats on the Political Bureau.

It is customary for learned professors to present the defeated revisionists as “brilliant intellectuals” and Stalin as “a clod from the Caucasian backwoods.”

The objective history of Stalin’s successful struggle against the Opposition belies such an analysis.

Having liquidated open revisionism in the political field, the Marxist-Leninists now in the leadership of the CPSU turned their attention to the development of a genuine proletarian culture.

The first step was to liquidate the existing cultural organisations under revisionist domination and to form new broad organisations in each field of culture — organisations open to all cultural workers who supported Soviet power and socialist construction, with a Communist Party fraction in each to give Marxist Leninist leadership.

Thus, in April 1932, the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party adopted a Decision “On the Reformation of Literary-Artistic Organisations”:

“The framework of the existing proletarian literary-artistic organisations…appears to be too narrow and to seriously restrict the scope of artistic creativity….Consequently the Central Committee of the ACP (b) resolves:

1) to liquidate the association of proletarian writers.
2) to unite all writers supporting the platform of Soviet power and aspiring to participate in the building of socialism into one union of Soviet, socialist writers with a communist fraction in it;
3) to carry out an analogous changes with regard to the other forms of art.”

(C. Vaughan James: op. cit. p. 120).

The fact that this radical decision was taken on Stalin’s personal initiative was revealed by Lazar Kaganovich at the 17th Congress of the CPSU in January-February 1934:

“A group of Communist writers, taking advantage of RAPP as an organisational instrument, incorrectly utilised the power of their Communist influence on the literary front, and instead of unifying and organising around RAPP the broad masses of writers, held back and impeded the development of the writers’ creative powers. . . .It might have been possible to bring out a resolution on the tasks of the Communists in literature; it might have been possible to suggest that the RAPP people alter their policy. But this might have remained merely a good intention. Comrade Stalin posed the question differently: it is necessary, he said, to alter the situation in an organisational way.”

(Lazar Kaganovich: Speech at 17th Congress, CPSU, in: Edward J. Brown (1935): op. cit.; p. 201).

The American music critic Boris Schwarz* tells us that:

“. . . the Resolution . . . was received with widespread approval.”

(Boris Schwarz: ‘Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia: 1917-1970’; London; 1972; p. 110).

The single organisation created by this decree in the field of literature was the Union of Soviet Writers, in the field of music the Union of Soviet Composers.

It remained to lay down the principles of aesthetics which Soviet artists would be expected to follow — principles which came to be known as ‘the method of socialist realism.

The Origin of the Term “Socialist Realism”

The first known use of the term “socialist realism” was in an article in the “Literary Gazette” in May 1932:

“The basic method of Soviet literature is the method of socialist realism.”

(‘Literary Gazette’, 23 May 1932, in: Herman Ermolaev: ‘Soviet Literary Theories: 1917-1934’; Berkeley (USA); 1963 (hereafter listed as ‘Herman Ermolaev (1963)’); p. 144).

Five months later, in October 1932, at an informal meeting in Gorky’s flat, Stalin gave his support to the term:

“If the artist is going to depict our life correctly, he cannot fail to observe and point out what is leading towards socialism. So this will be . . . socialist realism.”

(Josef V… Stalin, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 86).

The Characteristics of Socialist Realism

Realism, as we have said, is a trend in art which seeks to represent its subject faithfully and truthfully.

It must be distinguished from naturalism, which represents reality only superficially and statically. In fact, the world is in process of constant change, so that a work of art which fails to hint at the forces working beneath the surface of reality is not a realist, but a naturalist, work.

For example, Russia in 1907 lay under the “Stolypin* Reaction”: the organisations of the working class were being destroyed; the prisons were filled with revolutionaries; Black Hundred terror raged unchecked. On the surface, it was a picture of unrelieved, hopeless gloom for the mass of the people. Yet less than ten years later the whole rotten system of Tsarism had been swept away in the October Revolution. Consquently, a novel set in Russia in 1907 which failed to hint at the revolutionary social forces operating beneath the surface would be a work not of realism, but of naturalism.

Marxist-Leninists understand that monopoly capitalism, imperialism, is moribund capitalism, capitalism which has outlived its social usefulness to the mass of the people. Consequently, a 20th-century work of art which fails to suggest the underlying forces of the working class, of socialism, which will bring about the socialist revolution, is not a realist work: 20th century realism must be socialist realism.

The key word here is “suggest”: a socialist realist work of art must not give the impression of being propaganda.

As Engels expressed it in 1888:

“The more the opinions of the author remain hidden, the better the work of art.”

(Friedrich Engels: Letter to Margaret Harkness* (April 1888). in: Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: ‘On Literature and Art’; Moscow; 1976; p.91).

Thus, the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Writers adopted at the lst All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934 declares:

“Socialist realism demands from the author a true and historically concrete depiction of reality in its revolutionary development.”

(Constitution of Union of Soviet Writers, in: C. Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 88).

Socialist realist art does not exclude distortion and exaggeration, so long as this departure from naturalism assists in bringing out the truth about the subject. Thus, a caricature of Margaret Thatcher* showing her as a vulture with bloody talons would be much more realistic than a naturalistic portrait showing her as a sweet, silver-haired grandmother.

Socialist realist art is not, however, just a passive reflection of reality; it must play an active role in building socialist consciousness:

“The relationship between art and reality is twofold. . . . Socialist Realism demands a profound and true perception of reality and reflection of its chief and most progressive tendencies ; but it is itself a powerful weapon for changing reality. . . . Artistic truth facilitates the development of communist awareness, and education in the spirit of communism is possible only through a true reflection of life.”

(Vaughan James: ibid.; p. 80).

In Stalin’s famous phrase, socialist realist artists are “engineers of human souls”:

“Comrade Stalin has called our writers engineers of human souls.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: ‘Soviet Literature — the Richest in Ideas,* the Most Advanced Literature’ (hereafter listed as ‘Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934)’, in: H. G. Scott (Ed.): ‘Problems of Soviet Literature’; London; 1935; p. 21).

Socialist realist art is, therefore, “tendentious,” “partisan.” Far from pretending to be neutral in the class struggle, it consciously sides with the working people:

“Soviet literature is tendentious, for in an epoch of class struggle there is not and cannot be a literature which is . . . not tendentious.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934): ibid.; p. 21).

Of course, all art is selective in its subject matter. There may be a millionaire who gives away all his money to the poor; but he would be so exceptional that a work of art with him as subject would give a completely false picture of millionaires. It would not be truly realist. True realism, socialist realism, requires typicality in its selection of subject matter:

“Realism . . . implies, besides truth of detail, the truthful reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances.”

(Friedrich Engels: Letter to ‘Margaret Harkness’, (April 1888), in: Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: op. cit.; p. 90).

Romanticism is a form of art expressing intense emotion. However, in the majority of cases romanticism became linked with idealist soarings into metaphysics. Socialist realist art makes use of romanticism, but shorn of its metaphysical tendencies to give revolutionary romanticism:

“Romanticism of the old type . . . depicted a non-existent life and non-existent heroes, leading the reader away from . . . real life into . . . a world of utopian dreams. Our literature . . . cannot be hostile to romanticism, but it must be romanticism of a new type, revolutionary romanticism.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov (1934): op. cit.; p. 21).

We have seen that the form of a work of art is the manner or style in which the artist has presented the content of his work of art. Where the artist gives priority to form over content, we encounter a deviation from realism known as formalism.

Finally, socialist realist art must be national in form, not cosmopolitan:

“Proletarian culture . . . is . . . national in form.”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 7; op. cit.; p. 140).

“Internationalism in art does not spring from depletion and impoverishment of national art; on the contrary, internationalism grows where national culture flourishes. To forget this is . . . to become a cosmopolitan without a country.

Our internationalism . . . is therefore based on the enrichment of our national . . . culture, which we can share with other nations, and is not based on an impoverishment of our national art, blind imitation of foreign styles, and the eradication of all national characteristics.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: p. 61, 63).

The First Congress of Soviet Writers (1934)

The First Congress of Soviet Writers, held in Moscow in August 1934 resolved that socialist realism:

“. . . become the officially sponsored method, first in literature and subsequently in the arts in general.”

Vaughan James: op. cit.; p. 87).

Thus, by 1935 it could be reported truthfully:

“The Union of Soviet Writers comprises all those writers, living and writing in Soviet Russia, who adhere to the platform of the Soviet Government, support Socialist construction and accept the method of Socialist Realism.”

(Gleb Struve: op. cit.; p. 231).

However; revisionism in the arts had not been completely defeated. Papers were presented at the congress not only by the Marxist-Leninists Andrey Zhdanov and Maksim Gorky, but also by the still concealed revisionists Nikolay Bukharin, Karl Radek* and Aleksey Stetsky*:

“Bukharin . . . dismissed officially acclaimed ‘agitational poets’ as obsolete, and praised at length disfavoured lyrical poets, particularly the defiantly apolitical Pasternak*.”

(Stephen F. Cohen: ‘Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography: 1888-1938’; London; 1974; p, 356).

Thus, the battle of ideas between Marxist-Leninists and revisionists in the field of the arts did not end in 1934, but continued.

The Case of Dmitry Shostakovich (1936)

In November 1934 a new opera by Dmitry Shostakovich*, “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” had its premiere. The libretto was based on a short story by Nikolay Leskov* entitled “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.” It tells the story of Katerina Ismailova, the wife of a provincial merchant, who has an affair with a clerk in her husband’s office, poisons her father-in-law, then joins her lover in strangling her husband and, finally, murders her little nephew. For Leskov Katerina was a depraved criminal, but Shostakovich presented the story as a tribute to woman’s liberation. While

“… for Leskov, Katerina was a squalid, selfish criminal — deserving of the condemnation which she encountered. Shostakovich, as he later said, intended his music to minimise her own guilt. ‘The musical language of the whole opera is intended to exonerate Katerina1, he declared.”

(Norman Kay: ‘Shostakovich’; London; 1971; p. 26).

The opera caused a sensation in the United States:

“A Western critic coined the word ‘pornophony’ to describe . . . the bedroom scene.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 371),

And the “New York Sun” agreed:

“Shostakovich is without doubt the foremost composer of pornographic music in the history of the opera.”

(Boris Schwarz: ibid.; p. 120).

In January 1936, however,

” . . . when Stalin finally saw ‘Lady Macbeth’, he did not like it, . . . he walked out before it was over.”

(Victor I. Serov: ‘Dmitry Shostakovich: The Life and Background of a Soviet Composer’; New York; 1943; p. 220).

“For Stalin the opera was a painful experience.”

(Robert Stradling: ‘Shostakovich and the Soviet System’, in: Christopher Norris (Ed.): ‘Shostakovich: The Man and his Music’; London; 1982; p. 197).

A few days later, “Pravda” carried a leading article entitled “Chaos instead of Music” which, as its title indicates, was strongly critical of the opera.

Shostakovich himself insisted that the article

“… actually expressed the opinion of Stalin.”

(Solomon Volkov (Ed.): ‘Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitry Shostakovich1; London; 1981; p. 113).

and the editor of his memoirs, Solomon Volkov, agrees that the article was

“… dictated, in fact, by Stalin.”

(Solomon Volkov: Introduction to: ‘Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitry Shostakovich’; op. cit.; p. xxix).

The article declared:

“From the first moment, the listener is knocked over the head by an incoherent chaotic stream of sounds. The fragments of melody, the germs of musical phrases, are drowned in a sea of bangs, rasping noises and squeals. It is difficult to follow such ‘music’; it is impossible to remember it. … And so it goes on, almost right through the opera. Screams take the place of singing. If, once in a while, the composer finds his way on to a clear melodic path, he immediately dashes aside into the jungle of chaos, which sometimes becomes pure cacophony. . . . Expressiveness … is replaced by a crazy rhythm. Musical noise is supposed to express passion.

All this is not because the composer lacks talent, or because he is incapable of expressing ‘strong and simple emotions’ in musical terms. This music is just deliberately written ‘inside-out1, so that nothing should remind the listener of classical opera . . . and simple, easily accessible musical speech. . . . The danger of this ‘Leftism’ in music comes from .the same source as all ‘Leftist’ ugliness in painting, poetry, education and science. Petit-bourgeois ‘innovation’ produces divorce from real art, from real literature…Shostakovich, in reality, produces nothing but the crudest naturalism.. . . It is crude, primitive and vulgar.”

(Leading Article, in: ‘Pravda’, 28 January 1936, in: Alexander Werth; ‘Musical Uproar in Moscow’; London; 1949 (hereafter listed as ‘Alexander Werth (1949)’; p. 48-49).

A few days later, in February, “Pravda” published another leading article, this time strongly critical of Shostakovich’s ballet “The Limpid Stream”;

“The music is without character; it jingles; it means nothing.”

(Leading Article, ‘Pravda, 6 February 1936, in: Victor I. Serov: op. cit.; p. 208).

Shostakovich did not respond publicly:

“Shostakovich . . . suffered in silence.”

(Stanley Sadie (Ed.): ‘New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’, Volume 17; London; 1980; p. 265).

but he took note of the criticism:

“In December 1936 he withdrew his 4th Symphony…saying that he was dissatisfied with the finale.”

(James Devlin; ‘Shostakovich’; Sevenoaks; 1983; p. 9).

Most Western musicologists agree with Peter Heyworth*, who holds that the Marxist-Leninist criticism of Shostakovich and other composers

“… did immense damage to the cultural life of the Soviet Union.”

(Peter Heyworth: ‘Shostakovich without Ideology’, in: Gervase Hughes S Herbert Van Thai (Eds.): ‘The Music Lover’s Companion’; London; 1971; p. 201).

In fact, criticism of a work of art by the Marxist-Leninist Party of a socialist state is not criticism by “politicians,” but represents the collective opinion of the most advanced cultural leaders of the country:

“Whereas Western criticism represents the subjective opinion of an individual critic, Soviet criticism is a collective opinion expressed in the words of an individual critic.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 320).

And the view that the constructive Marxist-Leninist criticism was “harmful” is discounted by the fact that in November 1937 the first performance took place of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, inscribed:

“…’Creative Reply of a Soviet Artist to Just Criticism.'”

(Peter Ileyvorth: ibid.; p. 202).


Although this inscription did not originate with the composer,

“… Shostakovich . . . accepted it.”

(Stanley Sadie (Ed.): op. cit., Volume 17; p. 265).

And this new symphony, written in the light of the Marxist-Leninist criticism, proved to be his finest work to date:

“The Fifth … to this day remains Shostakovich’s most admired work.”

(Solomon Volkov: op. cit.; p. xxxi).

“Its first movement is Shostakovich at his best . . . and shows a new maturity; this maturity reaches its greatest depth and power in the third movement, the now famous Largo. The entire symphony seems, indeed, to satisfy the demand of the Soviet people that their new music should be ‘powerful and intelligible’. . . . Dmitry’s triumph could be compared only with the comeback of an idol of the prize-ring.”

(Victor I. Serov: op. cit.; p. 231-32).

“The 5th Symphony was received with unanimous praise and the critics rushed to acclaim it.”

(James Devlin: op. cit.; p. 10).

“Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony takes its place amongst the most profound and significant works of world symphonic music. At the same time, all its ethical and aesthetic elements, as well as the underlying idea and its embodiment in music, belong to Soviet art.”

(David Rabinovich: ‘Dmitry Shostakovich1; London; 1959; p. 50).

“It (the 5th Symphony — Ed.) proved to be Shostakovich’s first fully mature work. Naturally enough, the Party’s cultural officials were jubilant. Had not their criticism been admitted by its object as deserved? Better still, had it not yielded fruit in the shape of the finest score that Shostakovich had yet written?”

(Peter Heyworth: op. cit.; p. 202).

As a result, even Peter Heyworth feels compelled to point out:

“If Shostakovich’s weaknesses as a composer are to be attributed to the stultifying dogmas enforced by Zhdanov, why is his Symphony No. 12, written in the full flood of Khrushchev’s thaw, by far his worst.”

(Peter Heyworth: op cit.; p. 199).

Of course, Shostakovich was not sincere in paying tribute to the constructive criticism of the Party. He says in his memoirs:

“Stalin never had any ideology or convictions or ideas or principles…Stalin could definitely be called superstitious. . . . Stalin was half mad.”

(Solomon Volkov (Ed.): op. cit.; p. 187, 192).

The Wartime and Post-War Situation (1941-45)

During the Second World War, when Marxist-Leninists were primarily concerned with victory over the fascist invaders, revisionists were able to spread their ideas, in concealed form, in Soviet society to a considerable extent;

“Two famous decrees, one of August 1941, the other of December 1941, made it possible for any soldier ‘who had distinguished himself in battle’ to join the Party with the minimum of formalities… He could become a candidate member almost automatically and a full member in a much shorter time than usual. No serious ideological training was expected from him — in fact, practically none at all….As the war was nearing its end, there was growing anxiety among the older Party members at the thought that the Party had been diluted by millions of patriotic young soldiers with no ideological training to speak of…The general ‘ideological’ level of these organisations sharply declined in many cases after the war as a result of this influx.”

(Alexander Werth: ‘Russia: The Post-War Years’; London; 1971 (hereafter listed as ‘Alexander Werth (1971)’; p. 100, 102, 103).

In the summer of 1944, the writer Vsevolod Vishnevsky* drew this picture of “cultural coexistence” after the war:

“When the war is over . . . there will be much coming and going, a lot of contacts with the West. Everybody will be allowed to read whatever he likes. There will be exchanges of students, and foreign travel for Soviet citizens will be made easy.”

(Vsevolod Vishnevsky, in: Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 99).

and Alexander Werth* himself says:

“All kinds of other ‘Western’ ideas were being toyed with — for instance, a project for publishing ‘escapist’ literature, including a series of hundreds of thrillers and detective stories, translated from the English and published under the general editorship of that great lover of thrillers, Sergey Eisenstein*. A lot of light and entertaining books, plays and films would also be produced. Already in 1944 there were signs of ‘decadence’ in Moscow — amusingly ‘escapist’ films with frivolous songs . . . and even concerts of highly ‘decadent’ songs sung by Aleksandr Vertinsky.*”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 99).

In June 1946 a poetry evening was organised in Moscow in honour of the revisionist poets Boris Pasternak* and Anna Akhmatova*.

“The young people of Moscow — above all its students — gave a tremendous ovation to … Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova.”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit. p. 201).

It was following this incident that the Marxist-Leninists launched a determined counter-attack against revisionism in the arts. Or, as Werth expresses it,

“… Zhdanovism blossomed out suddenly in August 1946.”

(Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 201).

Incidentally, in 1944 Picasso joined the French Communist Party. But those who imagined that this might influence his art in the direction of socialist realism were sadly disappointed. The French Communist Party was already deep in the mire of revisionism — and not only in the sphere of the arts — and praised Picasso’s art unreservedly. When Stalin died in 1953, the Party commissioned Picasso to do a portrait of him for their literary journal “Les Lettres Francaises”:


Although, unlike many paintings by Picasso, this portrait is recognisably that of a human being, its publication brought a host of angry letters from readers and the editors were compelled to print an apology for having published it



“…reactionary morass in literature….She is one of the standard-bearers of the meaningless, empty-headed, aristocrat-salon school of poetry, which has no place whatever in Soviet literature….Akhmatova’s subject matter is individualistic to the core. The range of her poetry is sadly limited; it is the poetry of a spoiled woman-aristocrat, frenziedly vacillating between boudoir and chapel, Her main emphasis is on erotic love-themes, interwoven with notes of sadness, longing, death, mysticism, fatality… It would be hard to say whether she is a nun or a fallen woman; better, perhaps, say she is a bit of each, her desires and prayers intertwined….Her poetry is far removed from the people, It is the poetry of the ten thousand members of the elite society of the old aristocratic Russia, whose hour has long since struck and left them nothing to do but sigh for ‘the good old days.'”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov: op. cit.; p. 25, 26, 27).

The Soviet journalist David Zaslavsky* told a delegation of British writers in 1947:

“All these thirty years he (Zoshchenko — Ed.) has been writing and rewriting his one theme, portraying always that same petty, ignorant, mercenary character. His wit petered out. Laughter changed into vicious grumbling and the slandering of Soviet life. In latter years he had no success whatever among readers, and instead of writing short stories, he turned to mediocre and vulgar works of an allegedly philosophical nature, having nothing in common with either literature or science.”

(Edgell Rickword (Ed.): ‘Soviet Writers reply to English Writers’ Questions’; London; 1948; p. p. 41-42).

The Strike against Revisionism in the Theatre (1946-52)

In August 1946 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution entitled “On the Theatrical Repertory and Measures to improve it.” This resolution strongly criticised the paucity of Soviet plays in the repertory of Soviet theatres and the presentation of British and American bourgeois plays:

“The Committee on Arts and Theatres is guilty of a grave political error in sponsoring the staging and publication of foreign plays such as George S. Kaufman’s* ‘The Man Who came to Dinner’ and Maugham’s* ‘Penelope’, which are examples of bourgeois dramaturgy, bound to poison the minds of the Soviet public and to revive vestiges of capitalist mentality.”

(Avrahro Yarmolinsky: ‘Literature under Communism: The Literary Policy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from the End of World War II to the Death of Stalin’, in: ‘Russian and Eastern European Series’, Volume 20; 1957; p. 18).

The Party placed the principal blame for this situation on the leadership of the Union of Soviet Writers, which:

” . . . has virtually ceased to direct the work of the playwright and does nothing to raise the level of their compositions.”

(Avrahm Yarmolinsky: ibid.; p. 18).


“… acting and writing are poor, and drab, inartistic shows are the outcome.”

(Avrahm Yarmolinsky: ibid.; p, 18).

In January 1949 “Pravda” continued the offensive against revisionism in the theatre by publishing a leading article entitled “Concerning an Anti-Patriotic Group of Theatrical Critics.” It alleged that a group of critics were condemning good socialist realist plays on the false grounds of their alleged technical defects:

“An anti-patriotic group has developed in theatrical criticism. It consists of followers of bourgeois aestheticism….These critics…are bearers of a homeless cosmopolitanism which is deeply repulsive to Soviet man and hostile to him…Such critics attempt to discredit the progressive phenomena of our literature and art, furiously attacking precisely the patriotic and politically purposive works, under the pretext of their alleged artistic imperfection….The sting of aesthetic-formalist criticism is directed not against the really harmful and inferior works, but against the advanced and best ones which depict Soviet patriots. It is precisely this which attests to the fact that aesthetic formalism merely serves as camouflage for anti-patriotic substance.”

(‘Pravda1, 28 January 1949, in ‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volume 1, No. 5 (1 March 1949); p. 58, 59).

According to the new Constitution of the Soviet Union, adopted in 1935,

“…Soviet society consists of two friendly classes — the workers and peasants.”

(‘History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course1; Moscow; 1939; p. 344).

After the Second World War, the revisionists distorted this formulation in the field of aesthetics into the so-called “no-conflict theory” — the theory that, in the realist drama of the new socialist society, no conflict should be shown.

In April 1952 “Pravda” published a leading article sharply critical of the “no-conflict theory,” and of the state of Soviet dramaturgy generally:

“The struggle between the new and old calls forth the most diverse living conflicts, without which there would be no life and hence no art. The chief reason for the feebleness of dramaturgy and the weakness of many plays is that the playwrights do not build their work around the profound conflicts of life, but evade them. If one were to judge by plays of this kind…everything is ideal, there are no conflicts….This approach is wrong. To behave thus is … to sin against truth. Not everything we have is ideal; we have negative types; there is no little evil in our life and no few false people….The play must show living conflict; there can be no play without that. The gross ‘theory’ of the dying out of conflicts . . . has had a harmful effect on the playwrights’ work. . . .The breath of life is lacking in the plays written according to the ‘conflictless dramaturgy’ recipe. . . .Our dramatists must expose and mercilessly scourge the survivals of capitalism, the manifesting of political unconcern, bureaucracy, stagnation, servility, vainglory, arrogance, conceit, graft, an unconscientious approach to duties, a heedless attitude to socialist property; they must expose all that is vulgar and backward and hinders the progress of Soviet society.”

(‘Overcome the Lag in Dramaturgy’, in: ‘Pravda’, 7 April 1952, in: ‘Current Digest of the Soviet Press’, Volume 4, No. 11 (26 April 1952); P. 3, 4).

The Struggle against Revisionism in Historiography (1934-36)

Before 1932, the organisation of historiography in the Soviet Union was, like the organisation of the arts, dominated by revisionists — headed by Mikhail Pokrovsky*, until his death from cancer in 1932;

“The main centres of … historical study and discussion — the History Section of the Institute of Red Professors, the Society of Marxist Historians, and (from 1929) the Institute of History at the Communist Academy — were all directed by him.”

(John D. Barber: ‘Soviet Historians in Crisis: 1928-1932’; London; 1981; p. 21).

“Pokrovsky . . . became the virtual dictator of historical science in the Soviet Union.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit.; p. 408).

Genuine Marxist-Leninists have always accepted Marx’s view that capitalist colonial expansion in the pre-imperialist period could have a progressive aspect, as Marx pointed out in the case of pre-imperialist British colonial expansion into the Indian sub-continent:

“England . . in causing a social revolution in Hindustan was actuated only by the vilest interests. . . . But that is not the question. The question is: can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental evolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crime of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution.”

(Karl Marx: ‘The British Rule in India’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 2; London; 1943; p.656).

“England has had to fulfil a double mission in India: one destructive and the other regenerating — the annihilation of old Asiatic society and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia….

The political unity of India . . . was the first condition of its regeneration. That unity, imposed by the British sword, will now be strengthened and perpetuated by the electric telegraph. The native army, organised and trained by the British drill-sergeant, was the sine qua non of Indian self-emancipation, and of India ceasing to be the prey of the first foreign intruder. The free press, introduced for the first time into Asiatic society and managed principally by the common offspring of Hindus and Europeans, is a new and powerful agent of reconstruction. The Zemindaree and Ryotwar themselves, abominable as they are, involve two distinct forms of private property in land — the great desideratum of Asiatic society. From the Indian natives, . . . under English superintendence, a fresh class is springing, endowed with the requirements for government and imbued with English science. Steam has brought India into regular and rapid communication with Europe, has connected its chief ports with those of the whole south-eastern ocean and has revindicated it from the isolated position which was the prime law of its stagnation.”

(Karl Marx: ‘The Future Results of British Rule in India’, in: ibid., Volume 2; p. 658-59).

Soviet Marxist-Leninists, following Marx, applied Marx’s analysis to pre-revolutionary Russia to hold that Russia’s colonial expansion into Asia had a progressive aspect, so that local chieftains who resisted this expansion — like the famous Shamil* in the Caucasus — played a reactionary role.

Furthermore, genuine Marxist-Leninists hold that, under certain conditions, individuals may play a significant role in history. As Stalin said in his interview with the German writer Emil Ludwig* in December 1931:

“Marxism does not at all deny the role played by outstanding individuals….But…every new generation encounters definite conditions already existing….Great people are worth anything at all only to the extent that they are able correctly to understand these conditions, to understand how to change them. If they fail to understand these conditions and want to alter them according to the promptings of their imagination, they will land themselves in the situation of Don Quixote. . . Marxism has never denied the role of heroes. On the contrary, it admits that they play a considerable role, but with the reservations I have just made.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Talk with the German Author Emil Ludwig, in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 107-08).

However, the historian Pokrovsky and his school took an opposite view. They held that Russian colonial expansion into Asia was wholly reactionary, and that local chieftains who resisted it played a progressive role:

“Pokrovsky’s main reason for denying the validity of the cultural mission (of imperial Russia in Asia — Ed.) was that he considered Russian cultural attainments to be of very low order, inferior in most cases to those of the conquered peoples. . . .Pokrovsky scoffed at the idea, regarding everyone who saw progressive results of tsarist conquests as a Great Russian chauvinist.”

(Lowell Tillett: ‘The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non-Russian Nationalities’; Chapel Hill (USA); 1969; p. 30, 360).


“… Pokrovsky ignored the role of individual personalities.”

(Konstantin P. Shteppa: ‘Russian Historians and the Soviet State’; New Brunswick (USA); 1962; p. 114).

With the defeat of open revisionism in the Soviet Union,

“… the halcyon days of Pokrovsky’s school faded completely away.”

(Anatole G. Mazour: ‘An Outline of Russian Historiography1; Berkeley (USA); 1939 (hereafter listed as ‘Anatole G. Mazour (1939); p. 91).

In 1931 Stalin intervened with a letter to the magazine ‘Proletarian Revolution’ protesting:

“… against the publication … of Slutsky’s anti-Party and semi-Trotskyist article, ‘The Bolsheviks on German Social-Democracy in the Period of its Pre-War Crisis.'”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Some Questions concerning the History of Bolshevism’, in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 86).

“A little more than two years after Stalin’s intervention, official attacks on Pokrovsky’s ideas began, leading to total demolition of his reputation.”

(John D. Barber; op. cit.; p. 142).

In May 1934 the Central Committee of the CPSU and the USSR Council of People’s Commissars adopted a joint decree “Concerning the Teaching of History in the Schools of the USSR,” signed by Molotov and Stalin. This stated that:

“… the teaching of history in the schools of the USSR is not administered satisfactorily. . . . The students are given abstract definitions of social-economic structures, thus substituting obscure schemes for coherent narration of civic history.”

(CC, CPSU & USSR CPC: ‘Concerning the Teaching of History in the Schools of the USSR’, in: Anatole G. Mazour: ‘Modern Russian Historiography1; Princeton (USA); 1958 (hereafter listed as ‘Anatole G. Mazour (1958)’; p. 87).

The decree ordered new textbooks to be prepared for each field of history. It did not mention Pokrovsky by name,

“… but the implied criticism of him was plain.”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 139).


“… in January 1936, Pokrovsky’s influence was officially attacked.”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 139).

“Under Kaganovich’s leadership, and with Stalin’s support, a … campaign was launched against . . . M. N. Pokrovsky.”

(Roy A. Medvedev: ‘Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism1; London; 1971 (hereafter listed as ‘Roy A. Medvedev (1971)’; p. 143).

During 1936-37 the Society of Marxist Historians, the Institute of Red Professors and the Institute of History were all closed down. (John D. Barber: op. cit.. p. 139).

“Among the charges made against Pokrovsky was precisely that of having degraded personality to the status of a marionette controlled by the economic process.”

(Klaus Mehnert: ‘Stalin versus Marx: The Stalinist Historical Doctrine’; London; 1952; p. 76).

In November 1938 the Central Committee of the Party adopted a resolution

“… condemning Pokrovsky’s school for ‘anti-Marxist distortions’ and ‘vulgarisation'”

(John D. Barber: op. cit.; p. 140).

“Pokrovsky’s school…began to be associated with the teachings of the opposition. . . . Disciples of Pokrovsky were now proclaimed . , . ‘contemptible Trotskyist-Bukharinist agents of fascism’, who were trying to smuggle anti-Marxist, anti-Leninist ideas of Pokrovsky into historical literature.”

(Anatole G. Mazour (1939): op. cit.; p. 91).

“It is not accidental that the so-called school of Pokrovsky became a base for wrecking, as the NKVD has discovered; a base for enemies of the people, for Trotskyite-Bukharinite hirelings of fascism; for wreckers, spies and terrorists, who cleverly disguised themselves with the harmful anti-Leninist concepts of M. M. Pokrovsky.”

(‘Protiv istoricheskoi kontseptsy M. N. Pokrovskoyo’ , (Against the Historical Conceptions of M. N. Pokrovsky’); Moscow; 1939; p. 5).

This controversy in the field of historiography had important repercussions in fields of the arts — in the fields of historical fiction, historical drama and historical cinema.

The Struggle against Revisionism in the Cinema (1946)

In September 1946 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution entitled “On the Film ‘The Great Life.'” The resolution criticised the film named in the resolution, but banned outright another film — “Ivan the Terrible,” Part Two, directed by Sergey Eisenstein — on the grounds of historical inaccuracy:

“Eisenstein . . . exhibited ignorance of historical facts by portraying the progressive army of the Oprichniki as a band of degenerates, similar to the American Ku Klux Klan, and Ivan the Terrible, a man of strong will and character, as weak and spineless, something like Hamlet.”

(Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 208).

The ‘New Encylopaedia Britannica’ notes that

” . . . his nickname, ‘the Terrible’, is actually a mistranslation of the Russian word ‘grozny’, which more properly means ‘awe-inspiring’; Ivan was no more brutal than many of his contemporaries.”

(‘New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Macropaedia’, Volume 9; Chicago; 1983; p. 1.179).

In October 1946 Eisenstein admitted the justification of the criticism of his film:

“We forgot that the main consideration in art is its ideological content and historical truth. . . . In the second part of ‘Ivan the Terrible’ we permitted a distortion of historical facts which made the film ideologically worthless and vicious.”

(Sergey M. Eisenstein: Article in ‘Kultura i Zhizn’ (Culture and Life), 20 October 1946, in: George S. Counts & Nucia Lodge: ‘The Country of the Blind: The Soviet System of Mind Control’; Boston (USA); 1949; p. 147).

In February 1947 Eisenstein and the actor Nikolay Cherkasov* met Stalin, Molotov and Zhdanov to discuss the film, after which, Cherkasov relates,

“… we were then given full opportunity to correct the second part of ‘Ivan the Terrible’ . . . without any limits as to time or expense. S. M. Eisenstein was positively overjoyed at the prospect and thought about it unceasingly. . . . His premature death prevented him from undertaking the task.”

(Nikolay Cherkasov: Interview with Stalin, in: Sergey Eisenstein: ‘Ivan the Terrible’; London; 1989; p. 19-20).

However, after viewing the film in company with the director Vladimir Petrov*, they agreed that

“… there could be no question of correcting the material we had just seen; we would have to reshoot the whole of the second part”.

(Nikolay Cherkasov: ibid.; p. 20).

The Struggle against Revisionism in Music (1948)

In February 1948 the Central Committee of the CPSU adopted a resolution “On the Opera ‘The Great Friendship,'” which was sharply critical of the opera of that name by Vano Muradeli*, which had been given a private performance to the Central Committee at the New Year.

The decree declared:

“This opera is chaotic and inharmonious, full of continuous discords which hurt one’s ears.

The Central Committee considers that the failure of Muradeli’s opera is the result of his having followed the formalist road — a road that has been so pernicious to the work of Soviet composers.”

(CC Decree: ‘On the Opera “The Great Friendship”‘, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 29).

The decree asserted that the Union of Soviet Composers was dominated by a clique of composers who used their influence to foster formalism:

“The Central Committee has … in mind those composers who persistently adhere to the formalist and anti-people school — a school which has found its fullest expression in the work of composers like Comrades Shostakovich, Prokofiev*, Khachaturian*, Shebalin*, Popov*, Myaskovsky* and others. Their works are marked by formalist perversions, anti-democratic tendencies which are alien to the Soviet people and their artistic tastes. . . .

These composers have been indulging in the rotten ‘theory’ that the people are not sufficiently ‘grown up’ to appreciate their music. . . . This is a thoroughly individualist and anti-people theory, and it has encouraged some of our composers to retire into their own shell. . . .

The Organisational Committee of the Union of Soviet Composers became a weapon in the hands of the group of formalist composers and a source of formalist perversions.”

(CC Decree: ‘On the Opera “The Great Friendship'”, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 29,30,33).

Zhdanov had already made these points in January 1948 to a conference of music workers:

“Domination (of the Union of Soviet Composers — Ed.) was maintained in the interests of a trend.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 57).

Zhdanov insisted that the music of every nation should be developed upon the folk music of that nation:

“The development of music must proceed … by enriching ‘academic’ music from folk music.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid. p. 61).

and cited with approval the saying of the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka*:

“The people create the music — we, the artists, merely arrange.”

(Mikhail I. Glinka, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 60).

He accused the formalist composers of

“… a rejection of the classical heritage under the banner of innovation, a rejection of the idea of the popular origin of music and of service to the people, in order to gratify the individualistic emotions of a small group of select aesthetes.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; p. 57-58).

of imitating Western bourgeois music:

“A certain orientation towards contemporary Western bourgeois music . . represents one of the basic features of the formalist trend in Soviet music….

As regards contemporary bourgeois music, it would be useless to try and profit from it, since it is in a state of decay and degradation and the grovelling attitude towards it is ridiculous.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1949): ibid.; : op. cit.; p. 61).

and of neglecting melody:

“Melodiousness is beginning to disappear. A passionate emphasis on rhythm at the expense of melody is characteristic of modern music. Yet we know that music can give pleasure only if it contains the essential elements in a specific harmonic combination. One-sided emphasis leads to a violation of the correct interaction of the various elements of music and cannot, of course, be accepted by the normal human ear.”

(Andrey A. Zhdanov, in: Alexander Werth (1948): ibid.; p. 72).

Shostakovich issued a statement expressing his agreement with and gratitude for the Party’s criticism:

“Certain negative characteristics pertaining to my musical thought \ prevented me from making the turn. … I again deviated in the direction of formalism, and began to speak a language incomprehensible to the people. … I know that the Party is right. … I am deeply grateful . . . for all the criticism contained in the Resolution.”

(Dmitry Shostakovich: Statement, in: Boris Schwarz: op. cit.; p. 244).

Muradeli had already admitted:

“Comrades, in the name of the Party and the Government, Andrey Aleksandrovich (Zhdanov — Ed.) rightly and sharply criticised my opera ‘The Great Friendship’….

As a man, as a citizen and as a Communist, I must say that I agree with what he said.”

(Vano Muradeli, in: Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 51).

while Prokofiev declared;

“However painful this may be to many composers, including myself, I welcome the Decree, which creates conditions for restoring the health of Soviet music. The Decree is valuable in having demonstrated how alien formalism is to the Soviet peoples.”

(Sergey S. Prokofiev: Statement, in: Alexander Werth (1971): op. cit.; p. 373).

In April 1948 a new directorate of the Union of Soviet Composers was elected, with the composer Tikhon Khrennikov* as General Secretary.


Stalin’s concern for art and artists led him frequently to offer his personal assistance to artists, and to intervene where he became aware that officials were acting in reactionary or stupid ways.

The Case of Ilya Ehrenburg (1941)

After the signing in 1939 of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, Soviet censorship officials prohibited any mention in literature of the words ‘Fascism or “Nazism.” In April 1941 the publication of the second part of the novel ‘The Fall of Paris’ by Ilya Ehrenburg* was held up for this reason. Ehrenburg describes what occurred:

“On 24th April . . . a telephone call came from Stalin’s secretariat. I was told to dial a certain number: ‘Comrade Stalin wishes to speak to you’….

Stalin said that he had read the beginning of my novel and found it interesting; he wanted to send me a manuscript — a translation of Andre Simon’s book — which might be useful to me. …

Stalin asked me whether I intended to denounce the German Fascists. I said that the last part of the novel, on which I was now working, dealt with . . . the invasion of France by the Nazis, … I added that I was afraid the third part would not be passed, for I was not allowed to use the word ‘Fascists’ even where the French were concerned. Stalin said jocularly: ‘Just go on writing; you and I will try to push the third part through.'”

(Ilya Ehrenburg: ‘Men, Years — Life’, Volume 4: ‘Eve of War: 1933-1941’; London; 1963; p. 274-75).

Stalin’s Policy towards Openly Anti-Socialist Artists

Stalin stood firmly on the Marxist-Leninist principle that the maintenance of the dictatorship of the proletariat was essential for the construction of socialism, so that the exhibition and circulation of anti-socialist art must be prohibited by law.

Naturally, anti-socialist artists could not but regard this prohibition as “persecution.” The playwright Mikhail Bulgakov* described it as

” … tantamount to being buried alive.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ‘Manuscripts don’t burn: Mikhail Bulgakov; A Life in Letters and Diaries’; London; 1991; p. 109).

and the writer Evgeny Zamyatin* as his

“… death sentence … as a writer.”

(Evgeny. Zamyatin, in: Alex M. Shane: ‘The Life and Works of Evgeny Zamyatin’; Berkeley (USA); 1968; p. 78).

In fact, Stalin’s policy towards openly anti-socialist artists was to try to assist them, where possible, to utilise their artistic talents in ways that would not be harmful to socialist society. For example, anti-socialist authors who were linguistically qualified were assisted to work as translators, rendering the classics of world literature into Russian (as in the case of Boris Pasternak); anti-socialist writers who were not so qualified were permitted, if they so wished, to go abroad (as in the case of Evgeny Zamyatin); anti-socialist playwrights were assisted to work in the theatre as directors (as in the case of Mikhail Bulgakov).

The Case of Marina Tsvetaeva

So widespread is the myth of the “persecution” of artists in the time of Stalin that even when an artist committed suicide for what were clearly domestic or personal reasons — as in the case of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva* in August 1941 — efforts were made by anti-socialist propagandists to attribute the tragedy to “persecution.”

It is clear that Tsvetaeva’s wartime evacuation to the Tartar Republic was at her own request:

“She had already formed the idea of going off to the Tartar region.”

(Elaine Feinstein: ‘A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetaeva’; London; 1987; p. 266).

and that she did not lack the material necessities of life:

“She was not without material resources.”

(Elaine Feinstein: ibid.; p. 269).

Her biographers place the blame for the despair that led to her suicide on the attitude of her highly self-centred son:

“It is hard to evaluate the mood of Tsvetaeva on the last day of her life because the key is most likely in her relationship with her son and we don’t know what went on between them in her last days. Dmitry Sezeman, who was Georgy Efron’s (Tsvetaeva’s son — Ed.) friend, describes him as monstrously egotistical, with no concern whatsoever for anyone’s feelings. . . . The Bredelshchikovs (Tsvetaeva’s landlords — Ed.) reported hearing violent arguments between mother and son in French, and his constant reproaches and demands for luxuries she could not provide.”

(Simon Karlinsky: ‘Marina Tsvetaeva: The Woman, her World and her Poetry’; Cambridge; 1985; p. 244).

“It was no longer possible to mistake the hostility that Mur (her son Georgy — Ed.), his face sullen, felt for her. On Saturday, 30 August, he could be heard quarrelling violently with her. He reproached her for a lifetime of irresponsibility.”

(Elaine Feinstein: op. cit.; p. 269).

Miscarriages of Justice

During Stalin’s lifetime there were cases where artists who were in no way involved with counter-revolutionary activity were wrongly sentenced for such crimes. The Soviet revisionist leader Nikita Khrushchev* blames Stalin for these miscarriages of justice, but there is a contradiction in this charge. For Khrushchov admits that

“… all this which we have discussed was done during Stalin’s lifetime under his leadership and with his concurrence; here Stalin was convinced that this was necessary for the defence of the interests of the working classes against the plotting of enemies and against the attack of the imperialist camp.”

(Nikita S. Khrushchev: Secret Speech to 20th Congress, CPSU:, in: Russian Institute, Columbia University (Ed.); ‘The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism’; New York; 1956; p. 85).

But it is impossible to accept the absurd idea that Stalin could believe that the defence of socialism would be assisted by the fabrication of false charges against innocent persons. Since such miscarriages of justice could not fail to arouse the hostility of honest people who became aware of the truth, so weakening socialist society, the only people to benefit from them would be enemies of socialism.

To qualify as a candidate for such a frame-up, an artist had to be innocent of actual links with the counter-revolutionary conspiracy and be regarded as highly unlikely to make such links in the future — for the conspiracy aimed to protect such people as far as was possible. He had, however, to have had a ‘suspicious’ history that would lend at least some degree of credibility to charges of counter-revolutionary activity — for example, a former, terminated association with the Opposition, the production of a work of art expressing hostility to Stalin (this serving particularly that aspect of the conspiracy which aimed to create, and later denounce, a “cult of personality” around Stalin), etc.

Such miscarriages of justice occurred especially during the period from 1934 to 1938, when concealed revisionists were in control of the security forces, as in the cases of the writers Boris Pilnyak* and Osip Mandelshtam*. For obvious reasons, these fabricated cases — unlike the genuine treason cases of the 1930s — were invariably “tried” in camera.

The Case of Boris Pilnyak

The writer Boris Pilnyak was openly anti-socialist. He regarded the leaders of the Soviet Union

“…as barbarians who had let loose the age-old forces of anarchy upon the country.”

(Robert Payne: Introduction to: Boris Pilnyak: ‘The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon and Other Stories;’; New York; 1967; p. xv).

“His true political convictions are best described as unstable, with a strong undercurrent of anti-Soviet feelings. . . .He always remained antagonistic towards the Party and the government,. . . Pilnyak’s apoliticism sprang directly from his antagonism towards the Soviet regime.”

(Vera T. Reck; op. cit.; p. 95, 102, 103).

In October 1925 Milhail Frunze*, the Soviet People’s Commissar of Defence, died in hospital after abdominal surgery, and in May 1926 the literary journal ‘Novy Mir’ (New World) published a story by Boris Pilnyak entitled “The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon”:

“The boldest attempt of the Opposition to use the open press was the publication in the literary journal ‘New World’ of ‘The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon’… was a barely disguised version of the death on 21 October 1926 of Trotsky’s successor in the post of Commissar of Defence, Frunze. He had been operated on for a gastric complaint, began to recover, then died….The rumours that Stalin had murdered Frunze obviously served the Opposition. One plausible theory is that Karl Radek, a friend of Trotsky who had lost his membership in the Central Committee in 1924, inspired the novelist….The offending issue of the journal was withdrawn and apologies for such ‘error’ and ‘slander’, which ‘could play into the hands of the small-minded counter-revolutionary’, were forthcoming from both editors who were involved and the author.”

(Robert H. McNeal: op. cit.; p. 102-03).

“Radek was probably one of Pilnyak’s sources of rumours that surrounded the death of Frunze. Almost certainly these rumours first originated among Stalin’s enemies in the Kremlin.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 41).

Pilnyak’s disclaiming preface (dated January 1926) reads:

“The plot of this story suggests the idea that the occasion and the material for writing it was provided by the death of M. V. Frunze, I do not know the real circumstances of his death, and they are not very important for me, since reportage about the death of the People’s Commissar for Defence was no part of the purpose of my story. I consider it necessary to inform the reader of all this so that the reader may not look in it for genuine facts and living persons.”

(Boris Pilnyak: Disclaimer, in: Edward H. Carr: ‘Pilnyak and the Death of Frunze’, in: ‘Soviet Studies’, No. 2, 1958; p. 162).

Six months later (in November 1926) the journal ‘Novy Mir’ carried a letter from Pilnyak:

“I never expected that this tale would play into the hands of the small-minded counter-revolutionary and would be used in a disgusting way to harm the Party; I did not for a single moment imagine that I was writing a malicious slander, I now see that I committed grievous errors not perceived by me when I was writing; I now know that much writen by me in the tale consists of malicious invention”.

(Boris Pilnyak: Letter to ‘Novy Mir’, (25 November 1926), in: Edward H. Carr: ibid.; p. 163-64).

It was impossible to take these disclaimers seriously in view of the close and detailed resemblance between the real Frunze and Pilnyak’s “fictitious” “Gavrilov”:

“Gavrilov’s personal history — lightly sketched in by Pilnyak — owes nearly everything to Frunze’s biography.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 24).

Pilnyak’s biographer, although hostile to Stalin, feels that rumours of foul play in connection Frunze’s death can be dismissed as groundless:

“The question ‘was it murder?’ can probably be answered ‘No’…Stalin highly esteemed Frunze….The physicians were probably blameless in the death of the Commissar.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit. p. 17, 18, 19).

Although Pilnyak’s story was clearly a criminal libel under Soviet law, no action was taken against its author:

“Nothing happened at that time to Pilnyak or to the editor. . . . Stalin chose not to react to a libel which . . . would have provided ample grounds for criminal proceedings against its author and publisher.”

(Adam B. Ulam: ‘Stalin: The Man and his Era’; London, 1989; p. 260-261).

“Pilnyak went unpunished. He continued to write and to publish his works, and from time to time to travel abroad.”

(Robert Payne: Introduction to: Boris Pilnyak (1967): op. cit.; p. xviii).

Indeed, when there was a delay in issuing him with an exit permit for one of his foreign trips, it was Stalin who intervened to assist him in obtaining it:

“Pilnyak . . . wrote to Khozain, the Boss himself (Stalin — Eds.) asking him if there was any reasons why he should not be granted a visa. A reply came from Stalin to the effect that, after consulting his colleagues, he saw no reason why a visa should not be granted.”

(Vera T. Reck” op. cit. p. 182).

It is clear that Pilnyak had all the necessary qualifications to be a candidate for ‘frame-up’ by the revisionist conspirators:

“He (Pilnyak — Ed.) had made two trips to the Far East, spent five months in the United States, travelled through much of Europe, and ventured into the Middle East. While in Japan the first time, he was a ‘correspondent’ for ‘Asahi Shimbun’, a giant among Japanese dailies. . . . He had had contacts with the Japanese-Russian Literary Arts Society . . . founded in 1925. His trip to the United States had been sponsored and paid for, in part, by the Hearst’s ‘International Cosmopolitan’. . .For a time Pilnyak was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a writer and lived in Southern California. He had made many friends in the United States.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 3-4).

Accordingly, the revisionist conspirators arranged that Pilnyak should be arrested and

“… charged with espionage for Japan.”

(Jeanne Vronskaya & Vladimir Chuguev: op. cit. p. 402).

He was:

“… shot soon afterwards in 1937.”

(Vera T. Reck: op. cit.; p. 2).

“Pilnyak . . . was arrested and shot in 1937.”

(Robert H. McNeal: op. cit.; p. 103).

The Case of Osip Mandelshtam

Another artist who, like Pilnyak, was the victim of a revisionist frame-up was the poet Osip Mandelshtam.

In April 1934 Mandelshtam had recited to presumed friends a slanderous poem he had written about the leaders of the Party, and Stalin in particular, accusing them of being “murderers”:

“And every killing is a treat for the broad chested Ossete.”

(Osip Mandelstam: Poem, in: Olga Ivinskaya: ‘A Captive of Time: My Years with Pasternak’; London; 1978; p. 65).

Under Soviet law, this could have been interpreted as criminal libel:

“Under Article 161 of the Penal Code, libel, i.e., the spreading of false information about another person, is punishable by compulsory labour for a term of up to 6 months or a fine of up to 500 roubles.”

(David Zaslavsky: op. cit. p. 40).

However, it was a minor offence that honest and sensible people would have felt it best to ignore.

But, unfortunately for Mandelshtam, at this time the Soviet security forces were not under the control of honest and sensible people. The Marxist-Leninist Commissar of Internal Affairs, Vyacheslav Menszhinsky*, had been for some time

” . . .no longer responsible, as he was very ill and was now merely the nominal head of OGPU.”

(Boris Levytsky: ‘The Uses of Terror: The Soviet Secret Service: 1917-1970’; London; 1971; p. 72-73).

The man ultimately responsible for security was thus the Deputy Commissar, Genrikh Yagoda, who, as we have seen, was a concealed revisionist. In these circumstances, Mandelshtam was arrested. However, Stalin personally intervened:

“So great was his respect for poetic talent that he dealt personally with the case of Osip Mandelshtam,…who in 1934 had rashly recited to presumed friends a short poem that referred to Stalin as ‘the Kremlin mountaineer’, with fingers ‘fat as worms’, a killer surrounded by ‘half-men’. Stalin phoned Boris Pasternak … to ask if the culprit was really a genius. . . . Stalin at one point said that Mandelshtam would be ‘all right.'”

(Robert H. McNeal: ‘Stalin: Man and Ruler’; Basingstoke; 1988; p. 230).

“Stalin began by telling Pasternak that Mandelshtam’s case had been reviewed and that everything would be all right. This was followed by a strange reproach: why hadn’t Pasternak approached the writers’ organisations or him (Stalin) and why hadn’t he tried to do something for Mandelshtam? ‘If I were a poet and a poet friend of mine were in trouble, I would do anything to help him.”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: ‘Hope against Hope: A Memoir’; London; 1971; p. 140).

As a result of Stalin’s intervention,

“… Mandelshtam . . . was released from arrest.”

(Robert H. McNeal: ibid.; p. 230).


“… was given a ‘minus twelve’ exile, i.e., he could reside in’ any but twelve major urban centres.”

(Adam B. Ulam: ‘Stalin: The Man and His Era;’; London; 1989; p.391).

The Mandelshtams chose to live in Voronezh until Mandelshtam’s sentence of exile expired in May 1938, although he suffered a heart attack in the autumn of 1937. But in the month before his release (in April 1938) a new order for Mandelshtam’s arrest had been issued. (Clarence Brown: ‘Mandelstam’; Cambridge; 1973; p. 133).

As a result, in August 1938 Mandelshtam was

“… sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for counter­revolutionary activity.”

(Clarence Brown: ibid. p. 133).

In December 1938 he died of heart failure in the

“… perfectly decent and clean two-storey hospital”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: op. cit. p. 396),

of a transit camp in Vladivostok.

His widow was told by the novelist Aleksandr Fadayev* that Mandelshtam’s sentence had been ordered by the concealed revisionist Andrey Andreyev:

“Fadayev during the war whispered to me that it was Andreyev who had signed M’s sentence.”

(Nadezhda Mandelshtam: ibid.; p. 355),

“Mme. Mandelshtam records the inside information that it was Andreyev who ordered the second and fatal imprisonment of her husband.”

(Adam B. Ulam: op. cit.; p. 439).

The Case of Milkail Bulgakov

Let us return now to the question of Stalin’s policy towards anti-socialist artists.

The first novel of Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘The White Guard” (1921-22), adapted for the stage in 1926 as ‘The Days of the Turbins,” presented the. counter­revolutionary Whites as heroes:

“It describes the war from the White side. Its central characters, the Turbin brothers, are members of the White Guard. . . .Bulgakov’s treatment of the Whites as patriots and idealists, his refusal to glamorise the revolutionary proletariat, and the playing on the legendary opening night of the old Russian national anthem …”

(John Wakeman (Ed.): ‘World Authors; 1950-1970’; New York; 1975; p. 239).


“… a storm of controversy.”

(John Wakeman (Ed.): ibid.; p. 239).

Despite this, in July 1929 Stalin wrote to the dramatist Vladimir Bill-Belotserkovsky* to defend the play in that it was objectively progressive in spite of the author’s subjective intentions:

“‘Days of the Turbins’ … is not such a bad play, because it does more good than harm. Don’t forget that the chief impression it leaves with the spectator is one that is favourable to the Bolsheviks, ‘If even such people as the Turbins are compelled to lay down their arms and submit to the will of the people because they realise that their cause is definitely lost, then the Bolsheviks must be invincible and there is nothing to be done about it. ‘Days of the Turbins’ is a demonstration of the all-conquering power of Bolshevism. Of course, the author is altogether ‘innocent1 of this demonstration. But that is not our affair. “

(Josef V. Stalin: Reply to Bill-Belotserkovsky (February 1929), in: ‘Works’, Volume 11: Moscow; 1954; p. 343).

In fact,

“… Stalin was evidently very fond of the play (Bulgakov’s ‘The Days of the Turbins’ — Ed.); the Arts Council’s records indicate that he went to see it no fewer than 15 times.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p.70).

However, the revisionists in influential positions in the arts seized upon another passage in Stalin’s letter —

“Why are Bulgakov’s plays staged so often? Presumably because we have not enough of our own plays suitable for staging.”

(Josef V. Stalin: Reply to Bill-Belotserkovsky (February 1929), in: ‘Works’, Volume 11; op. cit.; p. 342-33).

— to force the withdrawal of all Bulgakov’s plays from production.

So, in spite of Stalin’s favourable comments on ‘The Days of the Turbins,”

“… the actual effect of his February 1929 letter was to put an end to all the productions of Bulgakov’s works in Moscow. . . . These developments completed the elimination of Bulgakov from the Soviet stage.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 70-71).

In the spring of 1930 Bulgakov completed a new play “Moliere,” which used historical events to make an attack on the principle of censorship. It depicted

“. . . the relationship . . . between Moliere and Louis XIV, Bulgakov’s portrayal of which was naturally read by his contemporaries as suggesting analogies to the modern world.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ibid.; p. 72).

In March 1930,

” … the Repertory Committee informed him that the play would not be licensed for performance.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 72).

Later the same month he wrote a letter to the Soviet Government:

“After the banning of all my works, I begin to hear voices among many citizens of my acquaintance, all giving me one and the same piece of advice: that I should write a ‘Communist play’ . . . and that quite apart from that I should address to the Government of the USSR a penitential letter, which should contain a renunciation of my previous opinions, as expressed in my literary works, and assurances that henceforth I was going to work as a fellow-travelling writer loyal to the idea of Communism. . I did not follow that advice. I would scarcely have succeeded in appearing in a favourable light in the eyes of the Government of the USSR by writing a mendacious letter, which would have represented a sordid and indeed naive political somersault. . . .

The entire press of the USSR, together with all the institutions to whom control of the repertory has been entrusted, throughout all the years of my literary career, has unanimously and with EXTRAORDINARY FURY demonstrated that the works of Mikhail Bulgakov cannot exist in the USSR.

I declare that the Soviet press is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. . . .

For me, not being allowed to write is tantamount to being buried alive.


If, on the other hand, . . . I am to be condemned to lifelong silence in the USSR, then I would request the Soviet Government to give me a job for which I am qualified and to second me to some theatre to work as a director on their staff.”

(Mikhail A. Bulgakov: Letter to Soviet Government (28 March 1930), in: Julie A. E. Curtis: op. cit.; p. 103-04, 105, 109).

Three weeks later (on 18 April 1930), Stalin telephoned Bulgakov at his home:

“Stalin’s first question was whether Bulgakov really wanted to go abroad. Bulgakov, somewhat stunned and unprepared, replied: ‘I have thought a great deal recently about the question of whether a Russian writer can live outside his homeland. And it seems to me he can’t’. . . Stalin . . . next asked him where he would like to work — what about the Moscow Arts Theatre? Bulgakov explained that he had asked about that and had been refused, at which Stalin suggested that he should try applying again. . . .Thirdly, Stalin proposed that he and Bulgakov should meet some time and have a talk. . . .

Stalin’s telephone call . . . was immediately followed by the Moscow Arts Theatre’s taking Bulgakov on its staff as an assistant director.”

(Julie A. E. Curtis: ibid.,; p. 111-12, 113).

The Case of Evgeny Zamyatin

In June 1931 the openly anti-socialist writer Evgeny Zamyatin, who had no experience in translation, wrote to Stalin asking for his intercession to be allowed to go abroad:

“I ask to be permitted to go abroad with my wife . , . with the right to return as soon as it becomes possible to serve the great ideas in literature without fawning on small people. . . I do not wish to conceal that the fundamental reason for my request to go abroad together with my wife is … the death sentence which has been passed on me here as writer.”

(Evgeny Zarayatin: Letter to Josef V. Stalin (June 1931), in: Alex M. Shane: ‘The Life and Works of Evgeny Zamyatin’; Berkeley (USA); 1968; p. 78).

As a result of Stalin’s intervention,

“… Zamyatin and his wife were granted an exit permit and were allowed to go abroad. . . .In November 1931 … he went abroad with the consent of Stalin himself…During his years abroad Zamyatin did not publicly attack the Soviet regime.”

(Alex M. Shane: ibid. p. 78-79, i, 82).

In March 1937

“… Evgeny Zamyatin died in self-imposed exile in Paris”.

(Alex M. Shane: ibid.; p. i).


The principles of Marxist-Leninist aesthetics elaborated by Zhdanov on the basis of theses put forward by Stalin have permanent importance for all societies in the world. Stalin fought to maintain socialist realism as the principled method of Soviet art.

Even Alexander Werth felt compelled to admit:

“There is an incontrovertible basis of truth in the Russian case. . . . The West cannot afford to ignore some of its own weaknesses, and it is not enough to sneer at Zhdanov’s theses and to pretend that all is well with Western art and Western literature.”

(Alexander Werth (1949): op. cit.; p. 16).

It is clear that the picture commonly drawn in anti-socialist writings, of artists in the time of Stalin suffering “persecution” because of their artistic creations, is based only on presenting the non-publication and non-circulation of anti-socialist art, and constructive criticism of other art, as “persecution.” In fact, the artists most strongly criticised — such as the composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich and the writers Akhmatova, Bulgakov, Pasternak and Zoschchenko — all died peacefully in their beds.

The first case in the Soviet Union of criminal proceedings against artists in connection with their work occurred long after Stalin’s death — in 1966, in the time of the revisionist Leonid Brezhnev*, when Audrey Sinyavsky* and Yuli Daniel* faced charges in connection with their writings. The trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel

“… was unique in Russian history. Neither under the tsars nor . . . under Stalin had ever there ever been any proceedings in which the main corpus delicti consisted of the actual contents of works of imaginative literature.”

(Max Hayward: ‘Writers in Russia: 1917-1978’; London; 1983; p. 278).

It was

“… unprecedented in the annals of not only Russian but world literature.”

(Leopold Labedz & Max Hayward (Eds,): ‘On Trial: The Case of Sinyavsky (Tertz) and Daniel (Arzhak)’; London; 1967; p. 17).

“The Sinyavsky-Daniel case . . . was unprecedented in modern Soviet history. . . . None (no intellectual — Ed.) had ever before been held criminally responsible for the political effects of their literary works.”

(Frances C. Locher (Ed.); ‘Contemporary Authors’, Volumes 85-88; Detroit; 1980; p. 550).

“A large part of the attention attracted by the Sinyavsky-Daniel case was due … to its precedent-setting nature.”

(Hal May (Ed.): ‘Contemporary Authors’, Volume 116; Detroit; 1986; p, 100).

In fact, we have seen that Stalin had respect for artists who were honestly anti-socialist, did not regard them as significantly dangerous to socialism, and on many recorded occasions assisted them in ways that would not be harmful to socialist society.

The people for whom he had no respect and whom he regarded as a serious danger to socialism were the concealed enemies of socialism who posed as Marxist-Leninists in order to attain positions of influence.


(This is an extended and annotated version of a lecture given by Bill Bland to the Stalin Society in London in May 1993).


AKHMATOVA, Anna A., Soviet poet (1889-1966).

ANDREYEV, Andrey A., Soviet revisionist politician (1895-1971); USSR Commissar of Transport (1931-35); Member, Political Bureau/Presidium, CPSU (193252, 1956-71); USSR Commissar of Agriculture (1943-46); USSR Deputy Premier (1945-53); Adviser to Presidium of Supreme Soviet (1962-71);

ARAGON, Louis, French novelist and poet (1897-1982).

AVERBAKH, Leopold L., Soviet literary critic (1903-38).

BECKETT, Samuel, Irish-born playwright (1906-89); in Paris (1937-89); awarded Nobel Prize for Literature (1969).

BELLINI, Giovanni, Venetian Renaissance painter (cl420-1516).

BILL-BELOTSERKOVSKY, Vladimir N., Soviet dramatist (1884-1970).

BOGDANOV, Aleksandr A., Soviet philosopher, literary critic and writer (1873-1928).

BREZHNEV, Leonid, Soviet revisionist politician (1906-82); Member, Secretariat, CPSU (1952-53, 1956-60, 1963-82); Member, Politburo/Presidium, CPSU (1957-82); lst. Secretary, CPSU (1964-66); General Secretary, CPSU (1966-82); USSR President (1977-82).

BRIK, Lillya: Russian-born French painter and sculptor (1891-1978).

BRIK, Osip M., Russian-born French critic and playwright (1888-1945).

BROWN, Edward J., American Slavist (1909- ); Associate Professor (1953-55), Professor (1955-65), of Russian, University of Indiana (USA); Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, Brown University (USA) (1969

BUKHARIN, Nicolay I., Soviet revisionist politician (1888-1938); Chairman, Comintern (1926-29); Member, Politburo (1924-29); arrested (1937); admitted to treason at public trial and executed (1938).

BULGAKOV, Mikhail A., Soviet writer (1891-1940).

‘CARAVAGGIO’ (= Michelangelo Merisi), Italian Renaissance painter (1573-1610).

CHERKASOV, Nicolay K., Soviet film actor (1903-66).

CROMWELL, Oliver, British bourgeois revolutionary soldier and statesman (15991658).

DALI, Salvador, Spanish-born painter (1904-89); to France , then to USA (1940); returned to Spain (1955) and became supporter of Franco regime.

DANIEL, Yuli M. (= ‘ARZHOV, Nikolay”), Soviet poet (1925-88); imprisoned (1966); released (1970).

EASTMAN, Max, American journalist, author and editor (1883-1969).

EHRENBURG, Ilya G., Soviet writer (1891-1967); in France (1921-28); in Germany (1924-28); in Soviet Union (1928-36); in Spain (1936-39); in France (1939-40); in Soviet Union (1940-67).

EISENSTEIN, Sergey M., Soviet film director (1898-1948).,

ERMOLAEV, Herman S., Russian-born American lecturer (1924- instructor (1959-60), assistant professor (1960-66), associate professor (1966-67), professor (1970- ), of Russian Literature, Princeton University.

‘FADAYEV (= BULYGA), Aleksandr A., Soviet novelist (1901-56); committed suicide (1956).

FRAGONARD, Jean-Honore, French painter and engraver (1732-1806).

FRUNZE, Mikhail V., Soviet Marxist-Leninist military officer and politician (1885-1925); Chief of Staff and USSR Commissar of Defence (1924-25).

GLINKA, Mikhail I., Russian composer (1804-57).

GORKY, Maksim’ (= PESHKOV, Aleksey M.) Soviet writer (1868-1936); to Italy (1924); returned to Soviet Union (1931).

HABA, Alois, Czech atonal composer (1893-1973).

HEYWORTH, Peter L. F., American-born British music critic (1921-91); music critic, ‘Times Educational Supplement’ (1950-55), ‘Observer’ (1955-77).

HOOCH, Pieter de, Dutch painter (1629-1685).

KAGANOVICH, Lazar M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1893-1991); USSR Commissar for Oil Industry (1939-40); Member, State Defence Committee (1941-44); USSR Minister of Building Materials Industry (1946-47, 195657); Ist Secretary, CP Ukraine (1953-55); dismissed from all posts by revisionists (1956).

KALININ, Mikhail I., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1875-1946); Soviet Russia, President (1919-38), USSR (1938-46); Member, Political Bureau/Presidium, CPSU (1925-46).

KAMENEV, Lev B., Soviet revisionist politician (1883-1936); Member of Politburo (1919-25); Ambassador to Italy (1926-27); arrested (1935); admitted to treason at his public trial and executed (1936).

KAUFMAN, George S., American playwright (1880-1961).

KHACHATURIAN, Aram I., Soviet composer (1903-78).

KHRENNIKOV, Tikhon N., Soviet composer (1913- );

KHRUSHCHEV, Nikita S.,, Soviet revisionist politician (1894-1971) Member Political Bureau, CPSU (1939-64); 1st Secretary, CPSU (1953-64); USSR Premier (1958-64).

KIROV, Sergey M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1886-1934); 1st Secretary, CPSU, Leningrad (1926-34); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1934); murdered by revisionists (1934).

KOSIOR, Stanislav V., Soviet revisionist politician (1889-1939); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1930-38); Chairman, USSR State Planning Committee (1934-35).

KRYUKOV, Fedor D., Russian (Cossack) author (1870-1920).

KUIBYSHEV, Valerian V., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1888-1935); Chairman, USSR State Planning Committee (1930-35); USSR Deputy Premier (1930-35); murdered by revisionists (1935).

LELY, Peter, German-born British painter (1618-81).

LESKOV, Nikolay S., Russian writer (1831-95).

LEVIN, Dan, Russian-born American journalist (1914- )

LUDWIG, Emil, German playwright and biographer (1881-1948).

MANDELSHTAM, Osip E., Polish-born Soviet poet (1891-1938); victim of charges fabricated by revisionists and died in imprisonment (1938).

MARGARITO OF AREZZO, Italian painter (fl. 1262).

MARSHALL, Herbert, Brtish writer and translator (1906-91).

MAUGHAM, W. Somerset, British playwright and novelist (1874-1965).

MAYAKOVSKY, Vladimir V., Soviet poet (1893-1930).

MAZOUR, Anatole G., Russian-born American historian (1900- ); Professor of Russian history (1946-66), Professor Emeritus (1966- Stanford University.

MEDVEDEV, Roy A., Soviet historian (1925- )

MELLY, George, British singer, musician, journalist and music critic (1926 – )

MENZHINSKY, Vyacheslav R., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1874-1934); Deputy Chairman, OGPU (1926-34); Chairman, OGPU (192-34); murdered by revisionists (1934).

MOLOTOV, Vyacheslav M., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1890-1896); USSR Premier (1930-41); USSR Deputy Premier (1941-57); USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs (1941-49, 1943-56); USSR Ambassador to Mongolia (195760); USSR Representative, International Atomic Agency (1960-62); dismissed from all posts and expelled from Party by revisionists (1962).

MUCHNIC, Helen L., Russian-born American Slavist (1903- ); Professor of Russian (1947-69). Professor Emeritus (1969- ), Smith College ((USA).

MURADELI, Vano I., Soviet composer (1908-70).

MYASKOVSKY, Nicolay Y., Soviet composer (1881-1950).

ORDZHONIKIDZE. Grigory K., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1886-1937); Member, Political Bureau, CPSU (1930-37); USSR Commissar for Heavy Industry (1932-37); committed suicide (1937).

PASTERNAK, Boris L., Soviet poet and novelist (1890-1960); awarded Nobel Prize for Literature for novel ‘Dr. Zhivago’ (1958).

PETROV, Vladimir M., Soviet film director (1896-1966).

PICASSO, Pablo, Spanish painter (1881-1973); worked in Paris (1901-73); founder of Cubism.

‘PILNYAK’ (= VOGAU), Boris A., Soviet novelist (1894-1937); victim of charges fabricated by revisionists; died in imprisonment (1937).

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SCHWARZ, Boris, Russian-born American violinist, conductor and musicologist (1906-83); assistant professor (1947-57), associate professor (1957-58), professor of music (1958-70), City University of New York.

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SHAMIL, Caucasian military and religious leader (1798?-1871); Imam of Dagestan (1834-59).

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STEPHENSON, George, British inventor (1781-1848),

STETSKY, Aleksey I., Soviet revisionist politician (1896-1938); died in prison (1838).

STOLYPIN, Pyotr A., Russian politican (1862-1911).

SYRTSOV, Sergey I., Soviet journalist and politician (1893-1938); RSFSR Premier (1929-30); arrested (1938); died in prison (1938).

THATCHER, Margaret H., British Conservative politician (1925- ); Secretary of State for Education and Science (1970-74); Leader of Conservative Party (1975-90); Premier (1979-90).

THORLBY. Anthony K., British lecturer (1928- ); assistant lecturer (1956-57), lecturer in German (1957-61), University College of Swansea; lecturer in German, University of Sussex (1961-63); Reader in Comparative Literature (1963-66), Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Sussex (1966

TOMSKY, Mikhail P., Soviet trade union leader (1880-1930); committed suicide to evade arrest (1936).

TRIOLET, Elsa: Russian-born French novelist and translator (1896-1970).

TROTSKY, Lev D., Soviet revisionist politician (1879-1940); Commissar of Foreign Affairs (1917-58); Commissar of Defence War (1918-25);

Member, Politburo (1920-27); expelled from Party (1928); exiled to Alma Ata (1928); deported from USSR (1929); to Turkey (1929-33); to France (1933-35); to Mexico (1937).

TSVETAEVA, Marina I., Soviet poet (1892-1941); committed suicide (1941).

TURNER, J. M. William, British painter, especially of landscapes (1775-1851).

VERTINSKY, Aleksandr N., Soviet variety artist (1889-1957).

VISHNEVSKY, Vsevolod V., Soviet journalist and playwright (1900-51).

VOROSHILOV, Kliment E., Soviet military officer and Marxist-Leninist politician (1881-1969); Member, Political Bureau (1926-52); USSR Commissar of Defence 1934-40); USSR Deputy Premier (1946-53); USSR President (1953-60); Member, Politburo/Presidium, CPSU (1926-69).

WERTH, Alexander, Russian-born British journalist (1901-69).

YAGODA, Genrikh G., Soviet revisionist politician (1891-1938); USSR Commissar for Internal Affairs (1934-36); arrested (1937); admitted to treason at public trial, executed (1938).

YAKOVLEVA., Tatiana A., Russian-born French (later American) hat designer.

YENUKIDZE, Avel S., Soviet civil servant (1877-1937); Secretary, USSR Central Executive Committee (1923-35); expelled from CPSU (1935); tried and sentenced to death (1937).

ZAMYATIN, Evgeny I., Soviet writer and literary critic (1884-1937); to Western Europe (1931).

ZASLAVSKY, David I., Soviet writer and literary critic (1880-1965).

ZHDANOV, Andrey A., Soviet Marxist-Leninist politician (1896-1948); 1st Secretary, Leningrad, CPSU (1934-44); Secretary, CC,’ CPSU (1944-48); murdered by revisionists (1948).

ZINOVIEV, Grigory E., Soviet revisionist politician (1883-1936); Member, Politburo (1921-26); Chairman, Comintern (1919-26); admitted to treason at public trial and executed (1936).
ZOSHCHENKO, Milhail M., Soviet writer (1895- 1958); expelled from Union of Soviet Writers (1946).


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Anasintaxi (1918-55): Photos from the discussion about Ukraine–fascism (16.11.2014)









The Movement for the Reorganisation of KKE 1918-1955 outside the Polytechic School in Athens

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Utsa Patnaik: On Measuring “Famine” Deaths: Different Criteria for Socialism and Capitalism?


By Utsa Patnaik

Many developing countries which have a high proportion of poor in their population, are typically characterised by a high death rate as well as a high birth rate, with the birth rate exceeding the death rate. The rate of natural increase is given by the difference between the birth rate and the death rate. The actual increase of population is obtained by subtracting from this the net out-migration from the country, if any. In the course of development as health services reach a larger segment of the population, education levels improve and per head real incomes rise, it is expected that not only will the death rate come down but so will the birth rate. The aim is to obtain an even faster decline in the birth rate than in the death rate, if the rate of natural increase is to come down from initial high levels. China however although starting from a worse situation had lowered both the death rate and the birth rate much faster. 

In a class-divided society, average figures do not give a true picture of how bad the situation is for the most deprived, who owing to endemic lack of adequate nourishment are also more vulnerable to sickness or morbidity. We know that endemic poverty, under-nutrition and lack of access to affordable medical services get reflected in a much higher death rate than the average, for the poor segment of the population. By the same logic, a given decline in the average death rate over time in the overall population, while in itself desirable, may well be very unequally distributed, with a very large decline in the already lower- than- average death rate among the top income groups in urban areas as their access to health services improves further, and a very small or non-existent decline in death rate say among the poorest in rural areas with initial high levels of deaths. A decline in the average death rate may be quite compatible even with a rise in the death rate for some segments of the population. 

The difference between endemic high death rate among the (mainly rural ) poor , and what is identified by most academics as ” famine deaths”, seems to be the fact that the first involves the poor dying at a rate higher than the average for the population, but slowly, unobtrusively and over a longer period of time owing to being chronically under-nourished and therefore being subject to higher morbidity; this higher than average death rate being considered nothing ‘out of the way’ given the existing distribution of incomes. 

The second, which is considered not normal or usual and is termed “famine deaths”, involves a sudden rise in nutrition-deprivation and hence sudden rise in morbidity and death rate, usually among segments of the very same group which is poor as a ‘normal’ state of affairs. In short, a sudden upward deviation from the prevalent death rate is thought of as “famine death”. The cause of a sudden and unpredicted rise may be various – a sudden decline in output, or a sudden rise in the price of the basic food staple. The second cause is not necessarily predicated on the first; a sudden rise in food price may take place , not because output is less than usual, but because government follows policies of suddenly increased expenditures, which rapidly expand incomes in the hands of one segment of the population and hence their demand for food, while leaving untouched the purchasing power of another segment of the population, as happened during the 1943 Bengal famine when deficit-financed defence -related expenditures were suddenly raised. 

While China has performed much better than India, it is widely believed that China had a more severe famine than India ever had, during the “Great Leap” period in which millions died; the figure of 27 to 30 million famine deaths is frequently quoted. The main source of this figure in India is Amartya Sen’s writings and speeches which are more widely known and reported than are the basic sources, the work of Western scholars, which he uses. The argument made by him is that the absence of press freedom in China explains the fact that the world did not have any inkling that such a massive famine had taken place at the time. Similarly, Peter Nolan and others have argued that a massive famine took place during the collectivisation drive in the Soviet Union in the thirties. 

In general, the thrust of the argument is that collectivisation produces famine and the absence of a ‘free’ press as in capitalist countries, prevents anyone outside these countries knowing about it until much later- when Western liberal scholars painstakingly uncover the facts through their research. Since collective ownership and production is the very essence of socialist production relations, this appears to constitute a damning indictment of socialism. The picture is complicated by the fact that in China itself, some of those, earlier termed the ‘capitalist roaders , who were always opposed to egalitarian principles of distribution and wanted to dismantle the rural communes (which were indeed dismantled from 1980 onwards), seized upon the alleged massive “famine ” as one argument for an ex post justification for doing so, regardless of the fact that they themselves despite their active involvement in political life were apparently quite ignorant at that time that such a massive famine with 27 to 30 million deaths, had taken place in their own country. 

It would be instructive to look at how exactly this estimate of massive “famine deaths ” has been arrived at by the ever busy Western liberal scholars, which estimates have then been assiduously spread by them and by others to discredit socialism and praise the bourgeois press (thereby, incidentally, ensuring a very good press for themselves). 

In China in 1959-61 there was indeed a large shortfall in agricultural output, as much as 15 percent from normal in 1959 and 25 percent from normal in the next two years and this decline did in fact coincide with the “Great Leap” when the transition from advanced co-operatives to the peoples’ communes took place. At that time a number of reasons including drought in parts of the country, floods in others and attacks of pests were put forward for the output fall. No-one, including the foreign diplomatic corps stationed there, or the ideological critics of collectivisation within the Party, at that time suggested there was massive famine. In India too the sixties were difficult years and output shortfall owing to drought in 1964-5 was severe, although less so than in China and was combined with rapid inflation which eroded real wages and raised poverty levels to nearly 60 percent according to the available World Bank estimates. 

To associate China’s economic difficulties with communes formation would be rather like associating Indonesia’s 1997-8 economic crisis and collapse with the widespread forest fires which took place at that time. In short empirical coincidence is not a causal explanation. The same commune system ensured a massive rise in employment, in food security and health security for the rural population in the next two decades. It was not communes which created economic difficulties; rather, it can be argued that without the newly-formed commune’s egalitarian distribution, the exogenous output decline might have had a far more severe impact in and made recovery much slower than it was in fact. 

When we look at the estimates of death rate and birth rate for China made by US scholars during the years 1959 to 1961, we find that the death rate rose sharply in a single year, 1960, by as much as 10.8 per thousand compared to 1959. But because China in the single preceding decade of building socialism, had reduced its death rate at a much faster rate (from 29 to 12 comparing 1949 and 1958) than India had, this sharp rise to 25. 4 in 1960 in China still meant that this “famine” death rate was virtually the same as the prevalent death rate in India which was 24.6 per thousand in 1960, only 0.8 lower. This latter rate being considered quite “normal” for India, has not attracted the slightest criticism. Further, in both the preceding and the suceeding year India’s crude death rate was 8 to 10 per thousand higher than in China. Of course, each economy has to be judged in relation to its own internal performance; and no doubt the rise in the death rate during the worst years of output shortfall is a bad blot for China on its otherwise very impressive record of rapid decline and good food security. But is it correct to say that “famine deaths” totalled as much as 30 million; and is it correct to imply that absence of press freedom meant that China’s then leaders, despite knowing about such massive deaths, were so cynical and depraved that they could mislead the world successfully? 

In a recent article, published in a Bengali-language journal, Badruddin Umar has provided a powerful explicit critique of the widely accepted argument put forward by Sen on large famine deaths (and hence also a critique of others like Nolan). Umar argues that it is inconceivable that such a large number of “famine deaths” should have been wilfully suppressed by a state in China which had demonstrated its commitment to peoples’ welfare by undertaking measures to reach basic food security and health services to the poor, and which had achieved a much faster reduction in infant mortality and the death rate in the very first decade of independence than had India. We propose here to try to provide an explanation which includes a more realistic estimate of mortality, and also of why no-one including the Westerners in China, even noticed that mortality was higher during these years. 

Most people will accept that in order to qualify to “die” in a famine, and become a famine-death victim, it is necessary to be born in the first place. But about 18million of the estimated 30 million “dead’ in China’s famine, were not born at all ! Most of those non-experts, journalists and others who accept and propagate the ‘massive famine deaths’ in China argument put forward by the academic sophists, do not themselves realise that people who were never born at all, and indeed never conceived at all, are being included to arrive at the 27 to 30 million estimate of “famine deaths” in China. The measurement techniques are designed to mislead, to talk about the “death” of people who were never born. How is this absurd procedure possible? It has come about because not only the rise in the death rate, but also the accompanying sharp fall in the birth rate is being taken into account when estimating “famine deaths”. The birth rate in China declined and fell to a low of 18 per thousand in 1961 compared to 29.2 in 1958. (After 1961 it rose faster than it had fallen, to reach a peak of 46 by 1964). 

The rise in the death rate during 1959-61 compared to the bench-mark year 1958 implies that there was indeed a total excess mortality of 10.5 million persons over the three-year period 1959-61 in China, excess in the sense that if the death rate had remained the same, then the population would have been larger by that many more people. This is the correct estimate of excess deaths, but this order of “famine deaths” is not quite spectacular enough for the liberal scholars. Therefore, the decline in the birth rate which was very steep during these three years, is taken into account and the children who would have been born if the decline in birth rate had not taken place, are added on by them to the estimate, to arrive at a three times higher estimate which is then called the “missing millions” and identified with “famine deaths”. The fact that at least 18 million of the alleged famine victims were never conceived or born, is a minor point for those who want to talk tendentiously about massive “famine deaths” totalling 30 million in China and thereby discredit collectivisation. 

That periods of food shortage do lead to decline in fertility is a fairly well established proposition. Periods of mass mobilisation of males, for military service for example, also get reflected in a decline in the birth rate. There was no military conscription at this date in peacetime China, but there was massive mobilisation of both male and female workers for a stupendous construction effort during this period of early commune formation. The established peasant family living and work patterns were radically re-organised with the formation of the communes: 

* large bands of and men and women set out in teams and brigades for constructing water management systems, cleaning up the environment and eradicating disease-carrying organisms, afforesting hills, terracing and bunding and so on. 

* They spent weeks on the work-sites, and there were communal kitchens and creches to look after children in these years. It is not surprising if this disruption of normal family life in the interests of construction, also contributed greatly to the observed decline in the birth rate as birth decisions were postponed. 

* With stabilisation of the new system, dismantling of communal kitchens and reversion to family life the birth rate again surged to unprecedented heights, peaking at 37.9 in 1964. 

As regards the genuine excess mortality during China’s difficult years, while shortage and difficulties were very real and visible, famine was near invisible to all including the Westerners at that time in China, because China by then was an egalitarian society, not a class society. The undoubtedly severe food shortage was not concentrated in a sharp drop in consumption by the members of a particular deprived class like poor peasants who then died in the sight of all , while others had more than enough to eat, as typically happens with famine in class societies. Food shortage while it was severe, was spread out over the rural consuming population much more evenly and therefore must have led mostly to higher rates, but not immediately or obviously visible higher rates of mortality in the particularly vulnerable segments in an otherwise equal society – parturient mothers, infants and the very old. It is a mistake to think that all real trends are visible to the individuals at the time. 

Thus even though we ourselves in this country have lived through the period when the infant mortality has fallen greatly, it is a matter we are convinced of not from our direct experience of it, but after the numbers have been counted and presented to us. China’s leaders were not guilty of wilful suppression of knowledge of the higher mortality; the knowledge itself was built up much later than the events, and the correct estimate as we have seen is just over one-third of the wrong and sensationalised estimates which are still being circulated. 

On a visit to China in the eighties, at the time the inflated “famine deaths” were being talked about in the West, this author mentioned these estimates and asked some very senior Chinese economists about their own experience of this period. They were extremely surprised and said that while there were cases of more deficiency diseases than usual they were not aware of widespread famine deaths. 

It should be noted that those sophists who designed the above mentioned unique measure of “famine deaths” are very reluctant to apply it to non-socialist countries and have never done so. Their method if impartially and honestly applied would produce more than one episode of large “famine deaths” – on their own definition – in the West European countries, which saw not only a rise in civilian mortality but also a decline in the birth rate during the time of wartime shortages. Even the accurate definition in terms of rise in the death rate, is never applied by them to talk about famine in countries which are not socialist. 

Thus in Russia comparing 1994 with 1990 from the data given by an US academic, we find that the death rate rose from 48.8 to 84.1 per thousand able-bodied persons, as that country plunged into “shock therapy” to usher in a capitalist paradise, and succeeded in halving its national income. No one can say that the press is under censorship in Russia today or that the estimates are not known. But not one of those eminent economists who have deafened us with their estimates of “famine deaths ” during Soviet or Chinese collectivisation, have bothered to apply the same method to current Russian or East European data, nor will they ever do so; for their interest lies not in objectivity, but in a sophisticated vilification of socialism. 

(Courtesy: People’s Democracy, September 26, 1999)


ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): The International Situation and the Tasks of the Proletarian Revolutionaries


The imperialist capitalist world is trapped in its irresolvable contradictions

The significant development of the productive forces, the gigantic capitalist accumulation and concentration, is unfolding in the midst of the anarchy of production and the realization of commodities; it is marked by the desire for profit of the owners of private property; it is determined by the uneven development; it is marked by competition which is expressed primarily at the level of the imperialist monopolies and countries, leading to an intense and sharp contention in all areas, economic, financial, commercial, political, diplomatic and military.

The expansion of capitalism and imperialism cannot escape the economic crises that occur at increasingly shorter terms and with greater depth. One cannot hide the general decline of the economy. Although there will be new levels of development of the productive forces, the capitalist-imperialist system remains trapped in the general crisis, it is manifested in the wars of aggression and genocide, it is built on the super-exploitation of thousands of millions of workers in all countries on earth, it is responsible for the poverty of thousands of millions of human beings. It has nothing new to offer to the workers and peoples. It is a rotten system, a system in decline.

A new economic crisis is looming

The economic crisis of 2008, which began in the US and had an impact on the vast majority of countries and was identified as the most serious since the Great Depression of 1929, caused massive destruction of the productive forces, the unemployment of more than 10 million workers, the lowering of wages, the raising of the retirement age and the cuts to pensions, as well as the use of public funds to favor the large industrial enterprises and banks by the States, which had in turn to resort to a new and aggressive indebtedness. It was an economic crisis that arose in the heart of the capitalist world, in the US, and which spread throughout the world. It was a result of the very nature of the capitalist system, it affected the big monopolies, but its most dramatic effects were thrown onto the shoulders of the working classes, the peoples and youth and on the dependent countries.

The economy of the US, of the countries of Western Europe, of some of the dependent countries in Asia and Africa that were affected by the crisis of 2008 are in the process of recovering, but in an embryonic, limited, slow and above all partial manner, since unemployment is still very high in almost all countries. The level of global production has reached the dimensions of before the crisis, in good part due to the growth of the emerging economies.

The pressure of the high external debt is one of the most serious consequences of the crisis of 2008 and could become one of the triggers of a new economic crisis. According to the data of the World Bank, the US debt exceeds 110% of its GDP, which was $16 billion in 2013. England has a debt 5 times greater than its GDP. In France the external debt is more than twice the GDP. In Germany, the external debt is almost twice the GDP. Although the debt of the dependent countries has not reached the dimensions of the 1970s, it is steadily growing. In fact, only China has recorded a GDP that is significantly greater than its external debt.

The ability of the countries to pay this debt is seriously threatened. The US had to resort to a political measure, to raise the limit of its borrowing capacity by a decision of Congress. Argentina has just been declared in default by the holders of its debt. The initial recovery of the economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Hungary relies on the injection of large sums of capital from banks at high interest rates and shorter terms, on a new and higher debt that makes them very vulnerable. Italy’s economy has been in the red.

Since 2012, the slowing of the growth of the Chinese economy has been clear, as well as the difficulties of India and the decline of the economies of Turkey and South Africa.

In Latin America we are experience a slowdown in economic growth. Brazil has been declared in technical recession, while in the first quarter of this year 2014 Argentina had a growth of 0.9%

How is this new economic crisis expressed? Where will the financial bubble burst? Will regional crises occur? Will there be a crisis of major proportions as in 2008? These are various questions that cannot yet be answered completely.

The ills of the capitalist world continue to punish the workers and peoples. According to the International Labor Organization, absolute unemployment affects more than 202 million people; unemployment is noticeably most evident in Spain and Greece where it exceeds 25%, and for the youth, including university graduates, the rates exceed 50%. South Africa has an unemployment rate above 26%.

The poverty rates for 2013 show that there are 1,000 million people subsisting on less than $1 per day; 2,800 million people had incomes below $2 a day; 448 million children were underweight, while 30,000 children under one year die every day from diseases that can be cured.

In various countries in every continent the emergence and development of fascism has become evident as an expression of the interests of the arms manufacturers, of the ultra-reactionary sectors of the ruling classes, as a manifestation of racist and xenophobic groups who lash out against immigrants, the national minorities, against the workers, the trade unionists and revolutionaries. In some countries these fascist manifestations are expressed in the electoral political struggle and they achieve significant results that make them a threat to democracy and freedom. Fascism is a reactionary, anti-communist, anti-people and anti-democratic policy of a section of the bourgeoisie; in some cases it is expressed in the repressive practices of reactionary governments. For the proletarian revolutionaries, the unmasking, denunciation and fight against the expressions of fascism are the inescapable responsibility in the process of organizing the revolutionary struggle for socialism.

An unprecedented wave of migration has struck the world today; millions of workers from the dependent countries, particularly from the poorest due to the imperialist plunder, are seeking to reach the developed capitalist countries by any means; they are seeking jobs and opportunities, they had to face incredible obstacles, long treks, unsafe boats with which they defy the fury of nature, they go through sewers and turbulent rivers, trying to climb the walls put in place to prevent their arrival. Those who manage to arrive at the country of their destination are subjected to discrimination, low wages, the worst living conditions, as well as being victims of the reactionary policies, of racial hatred and xenophobia.

The inter-imperialist contention is intensifying

The US remains the largest international economic power, the main military power. It possesses the leading technology in important areas of the economy, mainly in the production of shale oil that is permitting a significant reduction in energy costs. Despite these circumstances the US is losing the hegemony that it held in the economic, political and military spheres, it now faces greater competition from the other imperialist monopolies and countries. Its traditional allies, England and other countries of the European Union, at the same time as in certain circumstances they agree on common actions, they are refusing to endorse some of the warmongering actions such as the decision to bomb Syria and they are openly contending for their interests, especially in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, also penetrating Latin America. Within the European Union itself the actions of Germany to dominate that bloc are visible, as are the policies of France and England to contend for those positions. Further, the strengthening of Russia’s economy and particularly its great military might make it a stronger power with a significant nuclear arsenal, which seeks to participate for its own interests in a new redivision of the world. The economic growth of China, its position as the second largest economy in the world, make it an economic, financial and commercial rival which is affecting all countries and continents, with the decline of US power and that of the other imperialist countries; it is part of the club of nuclear powers and has the largest army on earth. India is developing its growth to a great degree and is taking part in the redivision, even though much of its economy represents direct investments by the international monopolies. In addition, new countries are emerging in the international arena in the economic field, such as Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia and Mexico, seeking to take part in the club of the powerful.

Clearly the unipolar world does not exist; the participation of various economic powers, of old and new imperialist countries has been developing since the end of the last century. They all are taking part in a world divided among the old imperialist countries, they are demanding their place in the new international situation, they are ready to contend for this position.

The rapacious and warlike nature of the imperialist countries is clearly seen in the military intervention, bombardments, invasions and deployment of occupation troops where their interests are threatened. The US and its allies continue to occupy Afghanistan, they are present in Iraq even though they have officially withdrawn, they carry out military actions in Pakistan, they maintain troops in Haiti, they intervene to support reaction and the oligarchies in Venezuela and they continue the economic blockade against Cuba. France invades Mali; it intervenes in Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic. Russia is forcefully annexing several republics and regions that were in the territory of the former USSR.

In 2014, Israel supported by the US and the Europeans carried out a brutal military aggression against Palestine, it unleashed intense air bombardments and repeated barrages of missiles, a military offensive with tanks and troops on the Gaza Strip, killing more than 2,000 civilians, children and the elderly. Presently there is a truce and some agreements that validate Palestinian demands to a certain extent; but they are not a definitive solution for the sovereign and popular future of the Palestinian people. The Israeli Zionists, despite having been unmasked and condemned by the whole world as genocidal terrorists, have not given up their desire to eliminate Palestine as a State and depopulate its territories in order to occupy them.

The inter-imperialist contradictions cause the assertion of the former economic blocs, NAFTA composed of the US, Canada and Mexico, the FTA between the US and the European Union, the European Union, Mercosur, the Asia Pacific bloc and the strengthening of the new groupings such as BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Pacific Alliance.

We are experiencing an intense contention for the markets of the imperialist countries themselves as well as for the dependent states of Asia, Africa and Latin America. China is particularly aggressive in placing its commodities in all countries; it is currently the economy with the third greatest direct investments in other countries.

Another area of inter-imperialist contention is seen in the race for mining and oil concessions, to buy large tracts of agricultural land by the transnational companies and the States themselves. The development of the productive forces, the progress of science and technology demand large quantities of raw materials, sources of energy and food that must be found mainly in the dependent countries.

The economic, financial and commercial confrontation rests on the policy of military deterrence and, going beyond threats, we are witnessing localized armed clashes to seize and/or maintain control of countries rich in oil and other natural resources, as well as to seize strategic spaces for the control of regions and/or to threaten, intimidate and blackmail the rival imperialist powers, countries labeled as “terrorists” or which “support terrorism.”

The alleged fight against terrorism has become the “reason,” the pretext for the imperialist countries and the reactionary governments to justify police policies of control of their own populations and those of other countries, to discriminate and repress immigrant groups of Arabs and those from other countries whom they classify as terrorists or “financiers of terrorists,” as revolutionaries and as social fighters.

There are various localized military conflicts in which the various imperialist countries intervene directly for their own interests.

In Syria a reactionary civil war is continuing to develop between the most reactionary forces supported by the US and Western European imperialists, the Arab governments that seek to establish a puppet regime that can continue the encirclement of Iran; and, on the other hand, the government of Al Assad that is the continuation of an anti-popular regime established several decades ago that currently receives military support from Russia.

The policies of imperialist intervention towards the Middle East are provoking religious-confessional conflicts. One part of this situation is the aggression of the armed groups of Al Qaeda-Radical Islamists, especially the Islamic State, which is increasing. These groups aim at different nationalities and religions in the region, mainly Kurds, Yazidis, the Christian minority and Alawis.

In these circumstances there is a battle and polarization between the imperialists and reactionaries in the region on one hand, and the power and actions of the Kurds on the other hand. The Kurdish nation is one of the oldest in the Middle East, it is divided up among four countries and in the midst of the confrontation it has progressed towards cementing its identity, to place itself as the alternative of self-determination despite the pressure of the imperialists and their reactionary allies.

The outrage that is developing in all parts of the world against the siege of Kobane* by the Islamic State is being expressed in high levels of solidarity that encourage the struggle of the Kurds and has forced the US, other imperialist countries and various Arab states to create a Coalition against the Islamic State.

* Kobane is a small town located in one of the Democratic Cantons of Rojava in Syrian Kurdistan.

The resistance of the democratic cantons of the Kurds against the brutality of the Islamic State and the reactionary forces of the region that support it is encouraging the hope and pointing the way for the struggle of all the oppressed peoples of the Middle East.

Ukraine is a scene of heavy fighting between government troops under fascist leadership, supported unconditionally by the US and the European Union; and “pro-Russian” sectors of the population that are seeking annexation to Russia, as did the inhabitants of the Crimea. The democratic, patriotic and advanced sectors that are resisting fascism and stand for independence, freedom, democracy and socialism are fighting in very hard and uneven conditions. The soldiers and civilians who are facing each other in combat are Ukrainians but they are mainly led by the expansionist interests of the Western imperialists on the one hand and the geopolitical interests of Russia on the other. That confrontation has led to the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia and the defiant response of the Putin government. This is an open contention to show the world who is who: the Western military force or the military power of Russia.

The arms race is being dangerously revived

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, military spending has returned to the levels of the Cold War. Data from 2013 show that world spending for military objectives has risen to $3.3 million per minute, $198 million per hour, almost $4,800 million per day.

The US occupies the first place by far with an annual spending of $640,000 million, followed by China with $188,000 million, Russia with $88,000 million, and then Saudi Arabia, France, Britain, Germany and Japan. Note that both Germany and Japan are venturing dangerously into the arms race and have begun sending their troops abroad. Israel and Zionism are the enclave and spearhead of US imperialism to attack Palestine and threaten other nationalist governments in the region; it has one of the largest and best equipped armies in the world.

In general, all countries have joined the arms race, fueling the war industry that is in the hands of the transnational corporations and large state enterprises.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons, the large number of imperialist military bases spread throughout the world, the process of renewal of military arsenals, go beyond the deterrent policy practiced by the great powers. They are preparations for an eventual general conflagration for a new redivision of the world.

Russia and China are seeking to create an imperialist bloc

The expansion of the Chinese economy to all continents, the supply of heavy and light industrial products at competitive prices is flooding the markets of the great majority of countries, including the imperialist and developed capitalist states. The direct investment of Chinese capital for oil exploration, mining, the construction of large public works are in first place in the dependent countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The aggressive diplomatic policy and the creation of commercial, economic and military blocs make China the second largest economy, an economic great power and an important military power.

Russia has regained significant levels of its economy and continues to develop its military capacity, today taking second place as a military power. It is rebuilding its geopolitical spheres, yoking several of the former countries of the ex-USSR to its designs. Despite its present difficulties, caused by the fall in oil prices, it has proclaimed its decision to participate in the management of the destinies of the world.

It can be seen that there are significant levels of commercial, economic and military cooperation between China and Russia, who are working together on various commercial and military initiatives. However, it is also clear that there are serious contradictions to be resolved for the eventual formation of an imperialist military bloc.

The BRICS, a new pole in the international economic and commercial confrontation

The coming together of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to form BRICS began several years ago; it has 3,000 million people who make up 40% of the world’s population, produce 20% of the world’s GDP and in 2014 represent 18% of the world economy.

The BRICS’ summit held in Brazil in 2014, relaunched the international initiative, becoming an economic, financial and commercial bloc to have its own voice in the international arena. It established the BRICS Development Bank and a reserve currency for international transactions in order to compete with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is seeking to integrate the dependent countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America into its orbit.

In the reformist views that exist in all countries, BRICS is an anti-imperialist bloc that should be supported and on which the peoples and the “progressive governments” should rely. They start from the assumption that Russia and China are a bloc that will hold back the US, that they will side with the interests of peoples, as they supposedly did in Syria; they assume that Brazil has a progressive government and represents the interests of the people of Brazil and Latin America. These ideas are spread among the masses and cause confusion, which it is up to us proletarian revolutionaries to clear up. Moreover, there is no shortage of gullible people who preach that BRICS is a counterweight to the hegemony of the US and its allies that could create a deterrent force internationally.

BRICS is a new economic and commercial bloc, a group of great powers, whose main objectives are to strengthen itself at the expense of the looting of the dependent countries and of the export of capital. On the other hand, as the events unfolding in Ukraine show, BRICS has major fissures and contradictions within it. Russia has not received the full backing that it demands in its contention with the US and the European Union. China, at the same time as it contends with the US and the imperialist countries of the European Union, reaches economic and trade agreements with them. Among China, India and Russia, at the same time as they sign agreements, have important economic and geopolitical contradictions.

Various cultural and religious conflicts are exacerbated

In the Middle East for several decades, religious groups and sects are emerging that wave the banner of Islam in opposition to the Western and Christian world, that define their differences among various Muslim sects by means of a “holy war.” These groups are supported and financed by economic groups in the Arab countries and by certain governments. Al Qaeda, which was initiated, trained and financed by the CIA, played a dirty role in torpedoing the progressive national struggle of the Arab peoples and imposing terror. Presently the Islamic State, which was initially part of Al Qaeda, is militarily occupying much of Syria and Iraq and has proclaimed a Caliphate; it is powerfully armed and challenges other Islamic beliefs and other religions from Sunni positions, committing all kinds of crimes and atrocities. The actions of the Islamic State are serving as a pretext for a new intervention by the US-led imperialist coalition that involves certain Arab states that propose to eliminate it with the scorched earth policy, bombing Iraq and Syria. In Africa the organization Boko Haram is proclaiming Islamic fundamentalism, it is active in Nigeria, proclaiming the formation of a Muslim State and killing civilians and kidnapping hundreds of girls.

In sub-Saharan Africa ethnic and religious conflicts are breaking out between ethnic and religious groups, using weapons provided by the imperialist countries; many of these conflicts are fueled by the inter-imperialist contention over natural resources, oil and coltan.

The ethnic, cultural and religious feelings that serve as instruments for the formation of groups of fanatics are fueled by the imperialist countries and the ruling classes to divert the struggle of the peoples for national and social liberation.

The struggle of the working class and peoples

In no country on earth is there social peace; everywhere the working class confronts the exploitation and oppression of the capitalists for their interests.

Those expressions of dissatisfaction by the working class are developing unevenly, they pass through the stages of the debate over the defense of their interests and how to win them, from the sit-down strikes, company strikes and the general strike, from street demonstrations, the formation of initiatives of coordination and of trade union struggle, for the building of political platforms and the participation in the electoral struggle.

This year, the event of major importance was led by the workers, peoples and youth of Burkina Faso who, through massive and heroic demonstrations, overthrew the dictatorship of Campaore, who had established a repressive, reactionary and pro-imperialist regime for more than thirty years. In this process, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Upper Volta, our fraternal party of the ICMLPO, has played an outstanding role in the organization and development of the struggle to come from behind and reached its climax and victory in late October. The local ruling classes, the French and Yankee imperialists and the armed forces at their service acted to divert the course of the struggle towards the recomposition of imperialist domination and of local domination through elections and the renovation of the institutions. The workers, peoples, youth and proletarian revolutionaries are persisting in the decision to continue fighting for the final objectives of emancipation and are joining in the new ideological and political battles with renewed energy.

In Mexico large demonstrations of the youth, workers and the population have been held rejecting the brutal action of the official repressive forces, the armed forces and the police, of paramilitary groups in the murder of several youths and the disappearance of 43 students from the school for teachers. These struggles are putting pressure on the bourgeois institutions; they are becoming political expressions that demand the resignation of the government. In these days our fraternal party, the Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist) is valiantly fulfilling its responsibilities, it is present together with the masses in the battles being waged. The brutalities of the reactionary regime of Mexico are receiving the condemnation of the workers and peoples of the world and of democratic public opinion; the popular movement is receiving the encouragement and solidarity of the social fighters and revolutionaries.

Tunisia has been reviving the ideals of the Arab Spring, of the struggle for freedom, democracy and social change. The workers, people and youth are developing new struggles to put into effect the gains of the popular uprising; they are fighting under all circumstances and using all forms of struggle; they are advancing in building the unity of the workers, peoples and youth, of the dissatisfied ones, of those who want change, in the Popular Front. In the last legislative elections the Popular Front achieved important results; it elected 15 deputies and in the presidential elections comrade Hamma Hamammi won third place among 27 candidates through hard struggle. In Tunisia the struggle for social and national liberation are still being raised; we communists have one of the boldest detachments.

The large demonstrations of workers in Spain, Greece, Italy and other European countries continue to show an important revival and an anti-capitalist orientation of the workers’ movement. In South Africa strikes by miners took place over several months. In China the strikes of the workers are numerous and combative.

The working classes and peoples are fighting for civil liberties and democracy, they are actively taking part in the political struggle, they are channeling popular opposition to the reactionary and sellout governments. The youth, particularly the secondary and university students, are taking part in the fighting in defense of public education, in opposition to the anti-popular measures of the governments of the bourgeoisie; they form a tributary to the struggle against imperialism, in defense of national sovereignty.

Reformism is no real alternative for social and national liberation.

A sector of the capitalist class, including some liberal bourgeois governments, social-democracy, the revisionists and opportunists continue to develop the politics of class conciliation, proposals for agreements among the workers, employers and governments to address the crisis, for the country’s growth, for social welfare.

These policies and practices have caused serious damage to the trade-union organization and the workers’ movement, it has allowed them to prop up the labor aristocracy, to promote the trade union bureaucracy that ties the hands of the unions, demobilizes the workers and diverts them from their class objectives.

In opposition to the leadership of the large unions, important sectors of the workers are seeking alternatives, they are forming coordinating collectives to fight for their rights, they are promoting union democracy and, in some countries they are forcing the bureaucracy to call strikes and demonstrations. Within the working class a sense of unity and struggle is being strengthened to oppose exploitation and oppression, to fight for their rights and new gains.

The struggles against the reactionary and neoliberal regimes in various countries and continents that have unfolded in the recent past have done away with several of these governments and have established through elections some governments that called themselves “progressive.”

Soon, these supposed alternative governments showed their class nature; they were expressions of another sector of the ruling classes, they used some reformist measures and especially welfare practices to deceive the working masses, to form a social base of political support, to promote ideological confusion that allowed them to fulfill the purpose of preserving the system of private property.

These various expressions of reformism that occurred in various countries and continents, mainly in Latin America, are becoming worn out; they were not able to confront the great problems of society or to meet the basic demands of the working masses; they are especially melting under the consciousness of the working class and peoples.

The proponents of reformism as a means of overcoming inequities are propagating the idea that putting an end to these processes will send us back to the past, to the rule of the old parties. That is a false premise that ignores the objective fact that those governments and programs represent the same old capitalism, a capitalism that actually does not remain static, that is always developing, always to the benefit of the propertied classes.

In Venezuela a particular process is unfolding: The economic and social measures of the government of Hugo Chavez were always significant in favor of the popular sectors; its patriotic and anti-US imperialist positions were consistent; it was the only government that relied on the mobilization of the masses. After the passing of Chavez, his successor is facing an aggressive campaign of destabilization and street fighting promoted by reaction with the direct support of the US. These actions are based on the social dissatisfaction due to the scarcity of food and other basic necessities, an inflation rate of over 60%, successive currency devaluations, the insecurity caused by an increase in crime. In Venezuela a tough battle is being waged between the left and right, between the patriots and sellouts, between revolutionary positions and reaction. Obviously, in Venezuela, there has not been a revolution despite the proclamations of the supporters of Chavez, nor is socialism being built. But there is a patriotic, democratic and revolutionary process that is confronting a fierce onslaught from reaction. The situation is proving that reformism, despite having assumed radical positions, is not the road to the revolution. It is not possible to predict the outcome of this confrontation in the short term. In any case the workers, people and youth of Venezuela are learning to fight in the midst high levels of struggles; they are developing an understanding of their role in the process of social transformation. The revolutionary party of the proletariat, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela, has before it great challenges and responsibilities.

The thesis that there are warmongering and aggressive imperialist countries and progressive imperialist countries that help the peoples and can be relied on for the national liberation process is false. With these ideas the “progressive governments” hide the links to a new dependence.

The class struggle continues to be the motive force of history

The constant development of the means of production caused by the extraordinary development of science and technology and the incorporation of millions of human beings to industrial production is generating huge profits and a more pronounced concentration of wealth in the coffers of the great international monopolies and the imperialist countries. Despite new inventions and discoveries, information technology, cybernetics, automation and robotics, the size of this accumulation is primarily a result of the labor power of millions of men and women who work in the factories established in every country of the earth.

The expansion of capital and the accumulation and concentration of wealth are the result, in the first place, of the appropriation of surplus value by the capitalist class. Without the existence and labor of the working class there would not be any wealth, the world of capital would not be possible.

The working class today is at the center of the epoch; it is the creator of wealth, the basic force of society not only because of its role in production but also because of its numbers. As never before, billions of workers form part of the working class, industrial production energizes economic development.

The increasing socialization of production and the concentration of wealth are the pillars of the capitalist-imperialist system; two fundamental classes of the epoch confront each other, the workers and the capitalists, who have built up a world of exploitation and oppression for millions of human beings in the interest of a handful of bosses, a circumstance of social shame and inequality, a society in decay, a world that is irretrievably heading to extinction, a situation that will be negated by the advent of a new world, the world of the workers, socialism.

We Marxist-Leninist communists will fulfill our responsibilities

The responsibility of the communists to support the revolutionary new as opposed to the reactionary old, to promote the advanced positions, to fight for the immediate needs of the workers, demands the continuation of the struggle to unmask the revisionist and opportunist positions within the workers and popular movement.

We Marxist-Leninists are standard bearers of the unity of the working class in each country and on an international scale; we are working for the building of a great front that would include the workers of the city and the countryside, the working class and the peasantry, the oppressed peoples and nations, the peoples and nationalities who are oppressed and discriminated against within the capitalist states; that includes the working youth, students and intellectuals.

For us it is vital to perfect our policies and activities to win over for the economic and political struggle, important sectors of the youth who are suffering from the impact of imperialist plunder and capitalist exploitation. The awareness and potential of youth is in contention: one or another faction of the ruling classes is taking advantage of this, either anarchist positions will seduce them or we communists will win them over to involve them in the process of social and national liberation, in the struggle for emancipation.

We Marxist-Leninist communists have been fulfilling our responsibilities in our countries. We are in the front ranks of the fights of the working class and youth, we represent the interests of the proletariat and we must strive to give them direction and guidance, to convert them in the stages of the process of the accumulation of revolutionary forces. The duty of the proletarian revolutionaries to fight against imperialism and the bourgeoisie, for the revolution and socialism, imposes on us the responsibility to deal with the various situations in which the revolutionary struggle unfolds, to fight against fascism and repression, against demagogy and reformism, to involve ourselves actively in the problems of society from the positions of the working class, to seek the formation of the popular fronts, to participate actively in the day-to-day situation without losing sight of the strategic objective of the struggle for power.

ICMLPO, Turkey, November 2014


Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta (PCRV): Statement on the Popular Insurrection in Upper Volta, known as Burkina Faso


Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta (PCRV)

November 1, 2014

Upper Volta, called Burkina Faso, is experiencing a revolutionary situation which led to a popular insurrection on Thursday, October 30, and ousted the autocrat Blaise Compaoré on Friday, October 31, 2014, despite his sordid maneuvers to maintain himself at the head of the neocolonial State at all costs.

Our people in their various constituencies and the popular youth have won an important victory with a spirit of determination and political maturity in thwarting the various conspiracies and in facing with heroic courage the barbaric repression that led to dozens of dead and wounded. This historic popular movement, which quickly spread like wildfire across the country in the wake of recent major demonstrations organized by the reactionary bourgeois opposition as well as by the Coalition Against the High Cost of Living on Tuesday, October 28 and Wednesday, October 29, fully confirms that when the people rise up neither repression nor terror can prevent them from winning.

This popular insurrection is taking place in the context of the continuation of the eruption onto the political scene of the popular strata with their pressing demands, who in the past allowed themselves to be oppressed and exploited without protest. They have learned to take charge of their own destiny through powerful struggles to get out of their misery and the deep distress that has struck them for decades, particularly under the government of the Fourth Republic of Blaise Compaoré due to neocolonial exploitation.

Indeed, since the hunger riots of 2008, not a day has gone by in which the poor peasants, workers and salaried employees, the poorest strata in the towns consisting of workers, apprentices, small traders, artisans, and especially the youth thrown into the informal sector, have not revolted and sometimes carried out insurrections for the right to a decent life, justice and freedom and a real change in favor of the people.

BurkFas2This is the practical and concrete expression of the deepening of the revolutionary crisis that has shaken our country since the assassination of journalist Norbert Zongo and his three companions in misfortune on December 13, 1998. This revolutionary crisis that has been developing in stages since then reached an unmatched scale today with this unprecedented popular movement in our country. This resulted in massive mobilizations through the various marches and meetings of the reactionary bourgeois opposition as well as of the Coalition Against the High Cost of Living (CCVC) and of the trade unions in June and July of 2013 and throughout 2014. The depth of the crisis is such that it led to the breakup of the ruling party, the CDP (Convention for Democracy and Progress) and to a reconfiguration of the national political scene. The stakes are either a fundamental change in favor of the people or a reform of the neocolonial system and the neocolonial rule, mainly French, in our country. Several memorable facts also reflect the failure of the mafia regime of the autocrat Blaise Compaoré and focused the anger and struggles of the masses:

* the lack of function and total discredit, striking the institutions of the Republic (government, parliament, justice), which have been reduced to a plaything in the hands of Captain Blaise Compaoré and his mafia clan in power who use and abuse them at their will;

* the pronounced inclination for the monarchisation of power with a strengthened collusion between the business community, traditional leaders and religious authorities;

* a gradual erosion of liberties under the pretext of the fight against organized crime with enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions fraught with the danger of gangland murders or disguised political assassinations;

* the persistence of impunity for bloody crimes brought to light by the democratic and revolutionary movement;

* a socio-economic situation plagued by corruption and impunity for economic crimes;

* the persistent problem of high prices with an increased impoverishment of the broad popular sectors;

* a clear revival of the vitality of the social front and an increasingly marked determination of the masses to fight for bread and freedom, as shown by the multiple actions and struggles organized and led by the party.

BurkFas3The popular insurrection of October 30 is fully justified in view of the overall maturation of the revolutionary crisis in Burkina Faso. But very quickly the working class and the people are realizing that their hard-won achievements are being threatened and reversed by the putchist clans of the neocolonial army, which have carried out a reactionary military coup d’état. Their ultimate goal is to stifle the revolutionary process taking place and to save the bankrupt neocolonial system. The reactionary bourgeois opposition, while advocating change, is carrying on negotiations with the military high command for a “transitional government” that would allow them to maintain their opportunity of obtaining neocolonial power.

The imperialist powers (France, United States and European Union) are busy trying to impose a solution that would preserve their economic and geostrategic interests in Burkina Faso and in the sub-region of West Africa. They are taking account of the role played by their former pawn Blaise Compaoré who allowed their military presence in the country to become a strategic platform of aggression and exploitation of the peoples of the sub-region.

But the popular movement remains vigilant and is showing its willingness to fight in order not to “be robbed of their victory.” The Revolutionary Democratic Movement, led by the party, in this complex situation is opposed to the military coup and calls on the masses to continue the struggle to deepen the revolutionary process.

The PCRV calls on the working class, the people and the youth to strengthen their organizations of struggle, especially the CCVC, and to organize together with them for the revolutionary overthrow of the neocolonial regime and to put in place a Provisional Revolutionary Government and a Constituent Assembly in order to build a modern democratic Republic.

The PCRV calls for international solidarity in the face of repression against the democratic and revolutionary movement and the interference of the imperialist powers in our country.

Bread and Freedom for the People

Long Live Proletarian Internationalism

November 1, 2014